On 23 April UNA-UK participated in the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – a new international coalition of non-governmental organisations calling for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons.
Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles has dramatically changed warfare, bringing with it new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now, rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to provide greater combat autonomy to machines. These developments are particularly being pursued by those states with advanced militaries, including the United States, China, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom.
These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. This capability would pose a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
The campaign launch comes a month before Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will present a report on the subject to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. An early release of the report questions whether adequate legal accountability will be attainable for lethal autonomous wepons as well as stating that "robots should not have the power of life and death over human beings".