On the eve of an important cross-governmental meeting on the future of military robots, Amnesty International has issued a strong statement calling for killer robots to be banned ‘before it’s too late’.
A meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems takes place in Geneva between August 27 and 31 2018. Amnesty is calling for a legally binding ban on truly autonomous killing machines. Instead, Amnesty argues that humans should “remain at the core of ‘critical functions’ of weapons systems such as the identification, selection and engagement of targets”.
Banning fully autonomous weapon systems under international law has been discussed before, but some states – namely those already developing them, such as France, Israel, Russia, South Korea, the USA and UK – have resisted such legal restrictions.
It’s not just on the battlefield that autonomous weapon systems could be used (or abused). Rasha Abdul Rahim, an Amnesty International Researcher/Advisor on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, points out:
“So far, the likelihood that autonomous weapons will be used in police operations, with all the risks that entails, has been largely overlooked. But drones capable of shooting electric-shock darts, tear gas and pepperball already exist. Israel recently deployed semi-autonomous drones to fire tear gas at protesters in Gaza, and we are likely to see more use by law enforcement agencies of this kind of technology in future.
There will be a further CCW meeting in November this year.