On behalf of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Maya Brehm of Article 36 gave a presentation to the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters on 4 July in Geneva.

The campaign urged the UN Secretary-General to support the campaign’s call for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons, to ensure there is always meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions. Such a prohibition should be achieved through an international treaty as well as through national laws and other measures.

The campaign also called for countries to advance the issue by agreeing to a mandate of work at the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting in November 2014. Already five countries have called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, and none have vigorously defended these systems.

The imperative of maintaining meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions emerged as the primary point of common ground at the CCW experts meeting held in Geneva in May 2014. Most nations that spoke highlighted the importance of maintaining meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions, including Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, and the UK.

Structuring the debate on autonomous weapons systems around the notion of ‘meaningful/adequate/appropriate human control’ helps identify the parameters around which control is exercised in present practice over the independent operation of weapons and weapons systems.

Understanding when and where and within what limits we deem it acceptable today that certain weapons act without direct human intervention (such as in the case of a certain mines, missiles, or sensor-fused munitions) provides indications of the temporal, spatial, context, and effects-related boundaries beyond which human control is no longer meaningfully exercised over target identification, selection, and engagement.

In her presentation to the board, Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said “there is a widespread view that such weapons must be subject to meaningful human control, yet exactly how they can be used in conformity with the rules of international humanitarian law remains unresolved.

In subsequent media coverage, Kane has raised concerns over weapons that can select and attack targets without human intervention, saying “”I personally believe that there cannot be a weapon that can be fired without human intervention”.


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