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Ban killer robots before their use in policing

Amnesty International has called for the ban and any further development of killer robots whose insidious creep into policing would put lives at risk and pose a serious threat to human rights, as it launched a new briefing in Geneva.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the organization called for a pre-emptive ban on the development, stockpiling, transfer, deployment and use of fully autonomous weapons systems (AWS or killer robots). “The second round of talks in Geneva this week are a clear sign that governments are waking up to the wide range of serious concerns posed by killer robots, whose development and deployment in the near future seem all but inevitable if we don’t act now,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Campaigner on Arms Control, Security Trade & Human Rights at Amnesty International, who is currently at the CCW talks in Geneva.
“The legal, ethical, and moral quandaries of using these systems in warfare are rightly beginning to receive the attention they deserve. But what’s still being widely overlooked is the likelihood that they will also be used in police operations, and it is urgent that this is addressed now.”
Amnesty International fears that robots will in future be used, resulting in unlawful killings, excessive use of force causing injuries, and undermining the right to human dignity as rapid advances in technology is bringing fully autonomous weapons without some level of human oversight closer to reality.
In fact, there is just a small leap from products that are already on the market to fully fledged killer robots. These include unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and ground vehicles that can apparently shoot electric-shock darts, tear gas and other less-lethal projectiles, resulting in the risk of death or serious injuries. Amnesty International believes that in policing operations, autonomous weapons systems wouldn’t be able to properly assess complex policing situations and comply with relevant standards.
“Under international standards, police may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty. They prohibit the use of firearms except in defence against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. It’s very difficult to imagine a machine substituting for human judgement, which is critically important to decisions on the use of potentially lethal force,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim.

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