Armed Robotic Systems Prompt Serious Human Rights Concerns

The world’s largest arms-producing companies pour billions of dollars into autonomous weapons systems, commonly known as killer robots, to be used in conflict zone and borders areas. However, rights groups raised concern over moral repulsion to the idea of machines making life-and-death decisions.

For example, a frightened mother may run after her two children and yell at them to stop playing with toy guns near a soldier. A human soldier could identify with the mother’s fear and the children’s game and thus recognise their intentions as harmless, while a fully autonomous weapon might see only a person running toward it and two armed individuals. The former would hold fire, and the latter might launch an attack. Technological fixes could not give fully autonomous weapons the ability to relate to and understand humans that is needed to pick up on such cues.

The requirement that an attack be proportionate, one of the most complex rules of international humanitarian law, requires human judgment that a fully autonomous weapon would not have.

Therefore, we need to stand firmly against the autonomous weapons systems as it poses a direct threat to human rights such us the right to protest, the right to life, and the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

Despite these human rights concerns, the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom continue investing heavily in autonomous weapons research and development.

Israel allowed the use of drone swarms in its recent military operations, in what is likely the first-ever use of drone swarms in combat. A fully autonomous drone swarm is a different level of technology altogether. It is a networked entity that is not controlled by human operators at all. The system is fed with data from satellites, other reconnaissance drones, aerial vehicles, and intel collected by the ground unit.

Such revolutionary weapons would not be consistent with international humanitarian law and would increase the risk of death or injury to civilians during armed conflict. A pre-emptive prohibition on their development and use is urgently needed.

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