France and Egypt Call for Action on Killer Robots at UN General Assembly First Committee

Ambassador M. Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France called for action from the international community to deal with the threat of fully autonomous robotic weapons in the UN General Assembly First Committee last week. “We must look to the future,” he warned his fellow delegates:

An important debate has emerged in recent months on lethal autonomous robotics. This  is a key debate. It involves the place of the human in the decision to use lethal force. There are legal, ethical, and technical issues with respect to this technology that need to be addressed. The terms of the debate need to be clarified in the appropriate disarmament forum which can combine military, legal, and technical expertise with all states concerned.

France has taken a leading role in promoting an international conversation about this emerging class of “killer robots” which would be able to use lethal violence without the direct human control.

Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil of Egypt was even more frank in his statement to the First Committee, calling for international regulation:

Egypt reiterates that technology should not overtake humanity. The potential or actual development of Lethal Autonomous Robots raises many questions on their compliance with international humanitarian law, as well as issues of warfare ethics. Such issues need to be fully addressed. Regulations should be put into place before such systems (LARS) are to be developed and/or deployed.

The statements from France and Egypt follow the presentation of a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns in April, which stated that killer robots “raise far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace.”

To learn more about the threat of fully autonomous armed robots, read this extensive report from Human Rights Watch, visit the websites of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and view my lecture online here.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 14 October 2013.

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