News / Europe

Activists Call for International Ban on 'Killer Robots'

A robot is pictured in front of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey as part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London, April 23, 2013.
A robot is pictured in front of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey as part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London, April 23, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
An international coalition is calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons known as "killer robots."  The 45-member Campaign to Stop Killer Robots says it wants the United Nations to draft an international treaty to outlaw the use of these robotic weapons.  

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is taking its case to governments attending the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons here in Geneva this week.  The group of non-governmental organizations says it wants the U.N. gathering to agree to add fully autonomous weapons to the Convention's work program in 2014.

The fully autonomous weapons or "killer robots" have not yet been developed.  Technology, however, is moving toward increasing autonomy.  Such weapons would select and pull the trigger on targets without human intervention.

Noel Sharkey chairs the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and is a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.  He says autonomous weapons should be banned outright.

"The big problem for me is that there are no robot systems that can discriminate between civilian targets and military targets unless they are very, very clearly marked in some way…so, the idea of having robots going out into the field and selecting their own targets is to me, is just horrifying.  It cannot work, " said Sharkey.

Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist.  The activists, however, say several robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality are in use by Britain, Israel, the United States and South Korea.  They say other nations, such as China and Russia, are believed to be moving toward these systems.

The director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and a member of the campaign, Steve Goose, warns that killer robots will become a reality if governments do not act now to ban them.  He says the technology and doctrine are headed toward greater autonomy on the battlefield.

While fewer and fewer soldiers are on the battlefield, he says many civilians remain.  Goose says a line must be drawn on a weapons system that would be able to select and attack targets automatically.  

He says this concept crosses a fundamental moral and ethical line.

"Armed robotic weapons systems should not make life and death decisions on the battlefield.  There is simply something inherently wrong with that," said Goose. "So, they need to be banned on ethical grounds.  We think they also need to be banned on legal grounds.  If and when a killer robot commits a war crime, violates international humanitarian law…who would be held accountable, who would be responsible for that violation?"  

Goose says in recent months, fully autonomous weapons have gone from an obscure issue to one that is commanding worldwide attention.  He says that since May, 34 countries, including several that are developing these systems, have openly expressed concern about the dangers the weapons pose.

He notes that in 1995, the Convention on Conventional Weapons created a protocol to the treaty, which pre-emptively banned blinding lasers.  Goose says he believes killer robots could become the second such weapon to be prohibited before it is ever used on the field.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid