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UN report calls for moratorium on lethal robots

Last Updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 15:52

New York: The UN special rapporteur on extra judicial killings has presented a report recommending a moratorium on the development and use of "lethal robots" and the establishment of a high-level panel to discuss a policy for these weapons, which are designed to kill enemies "autonomously" on behalf of human soldiers.

The issue is expected to be taken up at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council set to convene in Geneva tomorrow.

With remotely piloted drone aircraft already in use, the report appears as fears grow that that some countries may eventually introduce these so-called killer robots.

Last month, rights group Human Rights Watch also started a campaign calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

The recommendations were compiled by Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

He urges the Human Rights Council to call on all states to declare moratoriums on the testing, production, use of the robots.

He also recommends that the UN high commissioner for human rights convenes a high-level panel on lethal robots with the participation of experts in law, robotics, computer science, military operations and ethics.

Heyns incorporated these recommendations in his report, which expresses concern that robotic weapons may evolve into "autonomous" systems that can select and engage targets through computer programs and sensors without intervention by a human operator.

The report notes the danger of robots killing even those who are wounded and unable to fight or who are in the process of surrendering.

This would make it difficult to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, the report says, adding that letting autonomous machines decide who to kill implies "a vacuum of moral responsibility.

"Since a nation`s use of robots eliminates the risk to its own soldiers, these machines "may thus lower the threshold for states for going to war or otherwise using lethal force, resulting in armed conflict no longer being a measure of last resort," the report notes.
It says that "fully autonomous" robots have not yet been deployed.

Robot weapons include unmanned systems, quadruped transporters and small unmanned tanks.


First Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 15:41

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