Use of lethal autonomous robots may violate international law

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Christof Heyns

A United Nations Human rights expert has called for a halt in the development and deployment of lethal autonomous robots (LARs).

Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions says such a pause would allow for serious and meaningful international engagement on the weapons which have the ability to kill without human intervention.

Lethal autonomous robots operate independently and have on board computers that decide who should be targeted.

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Hynes said the introduction of the lethal autonomous robots raises far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace.

He said if their production and deployment are not checked, machines are not humans, will take the decision on who stays alive or dies.

"No State is currently using fully autonomous weapons that would classify as LARs, but the technology is already available, or will soon be. A number of States that are active in this field have committed themselves, for the foreseeable future, not to use LARs. However, it is clear that very strong forces – including technology and budgets – are pushing in the opposite direction. LARs can potentially be  used by repressive Governments to suppress internal domestic opponents. The Human Rights Council should call on all States to declare and implement national moratoria on the production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use of LARs until a framework on the future of LARs has been established." 

Mr Heyns says the deployment of autonomous weapons should be considered as unacceptable because no adequate system of legal accountability can be devised.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1.39″

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