NGOs and activists have called for a ban on the use of autonomous weapons that are no longer strictly controlled by human hands, calling so-called “killer robots” a “threat to humanity.”
The move comes as the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) takes place in Geneva this week, chaired by Ambassador Yann Hwang of France.
Member states are expected to decide whether to negotiate a treaty banning the use of weapons that are not decisively controlled by human hands.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a new treaty to clarify and strengthen existing laws related to these new technologies, adding that “the emergence of autonomous weapons systems and the prospect of losing significant human control over the use of force are serious threats that require urgent action “.
“These are weapons systems that would operate without significant human control. That is, instead of a human, you would have the weapon system itself that would select the target and decide when to pull the trigger. You would not have humans performing these functions, in instead, artificial intelligence would replace the soldier on the battlefield, ”explained Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.
“We think this crosses a moral line. We have moral and ethical questions about this, we have legal questions, we have questions of destabilizing international security. There are so many reasons why a killer robot should never exist and any of these aspects deserve a ban. , a preventive ban. These are weapons that are still in development. We have the opportunity to stop them in their tracks, “Goose told Euronews.
Even though most nations are in favor of a new treaty on this issue, arms manufacturers such as the United States, Russia, China, Israel and India strongly oppose the ban.
“It is no coincidence that these are the same countries that are most advanced in developing killer robots,” Goose revealed.
Since 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has repeatedly urged states to ban weapons systems that could, by themselves, target and attack human beings, calling them “morally disgusting and politically unacceptable.”
Last year, HRW published a report showing how 97 countries have responded to this challenge and elaborated their views on lethal autonomous weapons systems since the issue was first debated at the Human Rights Council in 2013.
The report analyzes the position of these countries in calls to ban fully autonomous weapons and maintain significant human control over the use of force.
However, according to Steve Goose, the CCW has made “very little progress” since it began discussing this concern in 2014.
“In large part because of these redoubts not wanting to see a move towards a legally binding instrument. But the CCW is not the only way to enforce legal regulations on these future weapons. With landmines, with cluster munitions, we saw nations leave the United Nations and unite a powerful group of countries to ban weapons altogether. The same step could be taken for killer robots, “he continued.
Watch the full interview with Human Rights Watch Arms Division Director Steve Goose in the video player above.