Killer Robots: Negotiate New Law to Protect Humanity

The 23-page report, “Crunch Time on Killer Robots: Why New Law Is Needed and How It Can Be Achieved,” by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, finds that international law should be strengthened and clarified to protect humanity from the dangers posed by weapons systems that select and engage targets without meaningful human control.

There is widespread support for developing new law and any divergence of views reinforces the need to clarify existing law. A new treaty would address the concerns raised by these weapons systems under international humanitarian law, ethics, international human rights law, accountability, and security.

Some countries have also expressed an interest in banning weapons systems that rely on profiles derived from biometric and other data collected by sensors to identify, select, and attack individuals or categories of people.

“Much opposition to killer robots reflects moral repulsion to the idea of machines making life-and-death decisions,” Bonnie Docherty, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch said. “A new treaty would fill the gap in international treaty law and protect the principles of humanity and dictates of public conscience in the face of emerging weapons technology.”

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