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Human Rights Watch Calls for Global Treaty on ‘Killer Robots’

Human Rights Watch on Monday urged governments to negotiate a treaty that sets standards for meaningful human control over lethal autonomous weapons. The call comes a day before representatives from 50 countries are set to meet in Geneva to discuss the issue.

The agency’s report, Areas of Alignment: Common Visions for a Killer Robots Treaty, details how several governments expressed objections to “delegating life-and-death decisions to machines” during the last Convention on Conventional Weapons held in September 2020.

No official diplomatic meetings on lethal autonomous weapons systems have taken place since.

Senior arms researcher at HRW Bonnie Docherty said that these so-called “killer robots” raise “fundamental moral, legal, and security concerns” that warrant a “strong and urgent response in the form of a new international treaty.”

“Killing or injuring people based on data collected by sensors and processed by machines would violate human dignity,” she said. “Relying on algorithms to target people will dehumanize warfare and erode our humanity.”

Mixed Views on Autonomous Weapons

Since 2013, at least 100 countries have expressed their opinions regarding autonomous weapons technology. At least 31 nations have called for an outright ban, including Austria, Brazil, China (on use only), Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and Uganda.

Advanced military nations such as Israel, Russia, and the United States argue an international law would be premature.

For Docherty, it’s clear that there should be no more delays. “It’s feasible and essential to draw the line now on problematic emerging technologies by negotiating a new international treaty to retain meaningful human control over the use of force,” she said.

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