Calls mount for action on 'killer robots'

2017-11-18 09:00
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Geneva - "Robots are not taking over the world", the diplomat leading the first official talks on autonomous weapons assured on Friday, seeking to ease criticism over slow progress towards restricting the use of so-called "killer robots".

The United Nations was wrapping up an initial five days of discussions on weapons systems that can identify and destroy targets without human control, which experts say will soon be battle ready.

Glacial pace

The meeting of the UN's Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) marked an initial step towards an agreed set of rules governing such weapons.

But activists warned that time was running out and that the glacial pace of the UN-brokered discussions was not responding to an arms race already underway.

India's disarmament ambassador, Amandeep Gill, who chaired the CCW meeting. said: "I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge".

Twenty-two countries, mostly those with smaller military budgets and lesser technical know-how, have called for an outright ban, arguing that automated weapons are by definition illegal as every individual decision to launch a strike must be made by a human.

Weapons systems

Gill underscored that banning killer robots, or even agreement on rules, remained a distant prospect.

Campaign groups agreed that there had been some progress at the inaugural meeting but sounded an alarm over further foot-dragging.

Most nations now agree on the need for a new "legally-binding instrument" controlling the use of killer robots and most "states now accept that some form of human control must be maintained over weapons systems", a campaign statement said.


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