United Nations the next stop for killer robots


Less than one week after the launch of a new international Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a new UN report has called for a moratorium on “Lethal Autonomous Robotics,” weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.

The 22-page report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Professor Christof Heyns, is dated April 9, 2013 and was uploaded to the United Nations Human Rights Council website on April 29. Heyns is expected to deliver the report in person during the week of May 27.

The report contains recommendations for government action, including:

  • The Human Rights Council should call on all States to declare and implement national moratoria on at least the testing, production, assembly, transfer, acquisition  deployment, and use of Lethal Autonomous Robotics until such time as an internationally agreed upon framework on the future of LARs has been established (Recommendation 113)
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights is invited to convene a high level panel on Lethal Autonomous Robotics (Recommendation 114)
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots launched in London on April 23 with strong media interest, civil society engagement, and signals of parliamentary support. In its first public statement, the campaign called for urgent action to preemptively ban lethal robot weapons. The Campaign is coordinated by Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch and includes major international non-governmental organizations working to advance humanitarian disarmament, including Amnesty International, International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
On April 19, Human Rights Council diplomats in Geneva were briefed by NGO representatives from the campaign. Now that the Heyns report is out, members of the Human Rights Council have one month to prepare their views on and indicate their support on its recommendations.
This future-focused initiative to address fully autonomous weapons is off to an auspicious start…
For more information, see:
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns –  A/HRC/23/47
  • Website of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
  • “Losing Humanity” report by Human Rights Watch

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