UN Committee to Debate the Legality of Killer Robots'
May 13, 2014
International Business Times & Campaign to Stop Killer Robots / Ottawa Citizen & United Nations Office at Geneva
Fully autonomous "killer robot" weapons do not "exist" yet, but the US and other countries along with high-tech military research labs are already developing the technology. Some experts predict that the killer robots will be fully operational in the next 20 years -- that is, if the controversial "Terminator" technology is not blocked by public and NGO protests set to be heard in the upcoming CCW meetings beginning on May 13 in Geneva.
'Killer Robots' Closer to Reality
Daniel Joseph Cruz / International Business Times
(May 12, 2014) -- The rise of "Terminator-like" robots may become a reality soon.
An initial meeting for the "Killer Robots" will be held at the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), Geneva on May 13. Two robotics experts, Profs. Ronald Arkin and Noel Sharkey, and the representatives and international United Nations agencies will attend the convention. It will be the first time that the issue for killer robots will be addressed in the CCW.
The fully autonomous weapons, known as the killer robots, are machines that will identify and kill targets without human input or intervention. The use for killer robots will be debated during the meeting at Geneva, addressing the concerns that could be a threat to humanity.
According to the public, the fully autonomous weapons do not "exist" yet, but other countries and its high-tech military research labs were already developing the technology. Some experts predict that the killer robots will be fully operational in the next 20 years, that is, if it makes through a majority agreement in the upcoming CCW meetings.
The two professors have two slightly different opinions regarding the killer robots. Prof. Sharkey warned the autonomous machines aren't guaranteed to always comply with international laws. He added, "I'm concerned about the full automation of warfare," quoted from BBC.
Prof. Arkin claimed killer robots could help reduce non-combatant casualties and may be more effective at determining when not to engage with a target than humans are," The Independent reported.
There are already autonomous machines already in use. The Israeli "Guardium" is an unmanned vehicle that can guard areas and attack any trespassers using lethal weaponry and the U.S. Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Group Vehicle can perform surveillance, reconnaissance, assault and breaching missions. Further improvements on these autonomous machines' lethality concern many international groups.
"Fully autonomous weapons also raise serious questions of accountability because it is unclear who should be held responsible for any unlawful actions they commit. Human Rights Watch calls for a preemptive prohibition on fully autonomous weapons," told the Human Rights Watch.
Experts To Meet in Geneva To Discuss "Killer Robots"
Campaign to Stop Killer Robots / Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA (May 12, 2014) -- Nations should commit to begin drafting new international law to stop the development of fully autonomous weapons or "killer robots," said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots today on the eve of the first multilateral talks on the issue. These are weapons that, once activated, would select and engage targets without human intervention.
The four-day Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting of experts to discuss questions concerning "lethal autonomous weapons systems" opens at the United Nations in Geneva tomorrow (Tuesday, 13 May).
"Talking about the problems posed by these future weapons is a good place to start, but a ban needs to be put in place urgently if we are to avoid a future where compassionless robots decide who to kill on the battlefield," said Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
Today, 20 Nobel Peace laureates including Williams issued a joint statement expressing their support for the objective of a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons. The signatories include 14 individual recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize and six organizations. According to the joint statement, "Lethal robots would completely and forever change the face of war and likely spawn a new arms race. Can humanity afford to follow such a path?"
Also today, Mines Action Canada released a memorandum to delegates "Lessons from Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons for the Current Discussions about Autonomous Weapons" which clearly describes the precedent set by the pre-emptive ban on blinding laser weapons in Protocol IV of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.
"Fully autonomous weapons would threaten fundamental rights and principles, such as the right to life and the principle of dignity," said Paul Hannon, Executive Director at Mines Action Canada, a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. "Governments need to say no to these weapons for any purpose and preemptively ban them now, before it is too late."
Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, but several robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality are currently in use by the US, China, Russia, Israel, South Korea, and the UK, and these and other nations are moving toward ever-greater autonomy in weapons systems.
Since the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots launched in April 2013, the topic of fully autonomous weapons has gone from an obscure, little known issue to one that is commanding international attention.
All of the 44 nations that have made public statements to date have expressed interest and concern at the challenges and dangers posed by these weapons. No government opposed the decision taken on 15 November 2013 to begin discussing questions about the weapons in 2014 in the framework of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots supports any action to urgently address fully autonomous weapons in any forum and it welcomed the agreement to work in the CCW. The CCW’s 1995 protocol banning blinding lasers is a pertinent example of a weapon being preemptively banned before it was ever fielded or used.
"For years we have been urging that governments take action to ensure that machines are never permitted to select targets and use force without meaningful human control," said Professor Noel Sharkey, Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), an NGO established by concerned engineers, computing and artificial intelligence experts, roboticists, and professionals from related disciplines in 2009.
A co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, ICRAC released a statement in October 2013 endorsed by 272 experts in 37 countries including Canada that calls for a ban on the development and deployment of weapon systems that make the decision to apply violent force autonomously, without any human control.
Mines Action Canada has launched a public initiative to Keep Killer Robots Fiction. "Canadians are familiar with the idea of killer robots from comic books, movies and novels but the reality is that these weapons will bring about dramatic changes in how war is fought," said Erin Hunt, Mines Action Canada’s Program Officer. "Fully autonomous weapons should stay on the screen and not on the battlefield. It is time for Canada to take on a leadership role to keep killer robots fiction."
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a global coalition of 51 non-governmental organizations active in two dozen countries that calls for a preemptive ban on the development, production, and use of weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without human intervention.
This prohibition should be achieved through an international treaty, as well as through national laws and other measures, to enshrine the principle that decisions to use violent force against a human being must always be made by a human being.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is led by a Steering Committee of five international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- Human Rights Watch, International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom -- and four national NGOs that work internationally: Article 36 (UK), Association for Aid and Relief Japan, Mines Action Canada, and PAX, formerly IKV Pax Christi (The Netherlands). The campaign delegation to the CCW meeting is comprised of 40 experts from member NGOs in 12 countries.
Representatives from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots will present their concerns about fully autonomous weapons at daily side events at the United Nations in Geneva on 13-16 May 2013.
The CCW Meeting of Experts on
Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS)
will take place from 13 to 16 May 2014 in the
Conference Room XIX at the United Nations in Geneva
United Nations Office at Geneva
GENEVA (May 12, 2014) -- At the 2013 CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties, a new mandate on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) was agreed on. The mandate states:
"Chairperson will convene in 2014 a four-day informal Meeting of Experts, from 13 to 16 May 2014, to discuss the questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems, in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention. He will, under his own responsibility, submit a report to the 2014 Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention, objectively reflecting the discussions held."
The Meeting of Experts will be chaired by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France. The formal letter of invitation to the Meeting of Experts on LAWS is available in both English and French. The Agenda is now available.
Presentations and Statements from the Meeting of Experts
Meeting of Experts - Debate on the pros and cons of lethal autonomous weapons systems, Tuesday 13 May, afternoon session, Conference Room XIX
The Meeting of Experts will include a debate between two leading robotics experts -- Professor Ronald Arkin and Professor Noel Sharkey. In preparation for this debate, the following articles by Professor Arkin and Sharkey are available:
* Arkin, Ronald -- Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant
* Sharkey, Noel -- The evitability of autonomous robots warfare
* Sharkey, Noel -- Towards a principle for the human supervisory control of robot weapons
Side events hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots will be held in Conference Room XXII and start at 13:00 with a sandwich lunch
Tuesday, May 13:
The Need for New International Law -- Moderated by Ms. Sarah Knuckey of New York University and featuring:
* Ms. Bonnie Docherty, Human Rights Watch
* Mr. Brian Wood, Amnesty International
* Prof. David Akerson, International Committee on Robot Arms Control
Wednesday, May 14:
Technical and Operational Concerns -- Moderated by Prof. Denise Garcia of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control
(ICRAC) and featuring:
* Prof. Noel Sharkey, ICRAC
* Dr. Heather Roff, ICRAC
* Dr. Juergen Altmann, ICRAC
* Ms. Maya Brehm, Article 36
Thursday, May 15:
Ethical and Moral Concerns -- Moderated by Dr. Steve Wright of ICRAC and featuring:
* Dr. Peter Asaro, ICRAC
* Ms. Miriam Struyk, PAX
* Dr. Charli Carpenter, Article 36
Friday, May 16:
The Way Forward -- Moderated by Beatrice Fihn of WILPF and featuring:
* Ms. Jody Williams, Nobel Women’s Initiative and Nobel Peace Laureate
* Ambassador Jayathana Dhanapala, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
* Mr. Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
Potentially LAWS could identify and attack a target without human intervention. This issue was first brought to the international community’s attention by Human Rights Watch in its report titled "Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots." The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots as part of its advocacy on LAWS produced this short film explaining the background to LAWS and work being undertaken within the United Nations and civil society.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots will be attending the Meeting of Experts. Attached here is a list of their experts. Also during the Meeting of Experts the Campaign will be hosting four side events.
Background information on LAWS
LAWS is a very new issue. Below are articles on LAWS that may be useful to delegations:
American Society of International Law -- Panel on Autonomous Weaponry and Armed Conflict
Asaro, Peter -- On banning autonomous weapon systems: human rights, automation, and the dehumanization of lethal decision-making
Anderson, Kenneth and Waxman, Matthew -- Law and Ethics for Autonomous Weapons Systems: Why a Ban Won't Work and How the Laws of War Can
Heyns, Christof -- Report on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (focusing on lethal autonomous weapons systems)
Marchant, Gary; Allenby, Braden; Arkin, Ronald; Barrett, Edward; Borenstein, Jason; Gaudet, Lyn; Kitterie, Orde; Lin, Patrick; Lucas, George; O'Meara, Richard; and Silberman, Jared -- International Governance of Autonomous Military Robots (from The Colombia, Science and Technology Law Review)
Marsh, Nicholas (2014) Defining the Scope of Autonomy, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.
Lin, Ptrick; Bekey, George; and Abney, Keith - Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design
Sharkey, Noel -- Weapons of Indiscriminate Lethality
Schmitt, Michael -- Autonomous Weapon Systems and International Humanitarian Law: A Reply to the Critics
UNIDIR -- Framing Discussions on the Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies
International Committee of the Red Cross press release on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.