Blog: Fully Autonomous Weapons

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April 9, 2015

Clinic and HRW Release Report: “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots”

PRESS RELEASE

The “Killer Robots” Accountability Gap

Obstacles to Legal Responsibility Show Need for Ban

 

(Geneva, April 9, 2015) – Programmers, manufacturers, and military personnel could all escape liability for unlawful deaths and injuries caused by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was issued in advance of a multilateral meeting on the weapons at the United Nations in Geneva.

RobotCoverThe 38-page report, “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots,” details significant hurdles to assigning personal accountability for the actions of fully autonomous weapons under both criminal and civil law. It also elaborates on the consequences of failing to assign legal responsibility. The report is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“No accountability means no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social condemnation of the responsible party,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms Division researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s lead author. “The many obstacles to justice for potential victims show why we urgently need to ban fully autonomous weapons.” Continue Reading…

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October 21, 2013

Clinic Calls for a Ban on Killer Robots

Posted by Bonnie Docherty

At a UN meeting in New York today, the International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch called for urgent action to stop the development of fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.” The Clinic and HRW released a question and answer document earlier in the day that makes plain the seriousness of the threat from these weapons, which would have the ability to identify and fire on human targets without intervention. The document builds on a Nov. 2012 report jointly published by the Clinic and HRW, entitled Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.

Clinical students Kenny Pyetranker, J.D. ’13, Jonathan Nomamiukur, J.D. ’13, and Harin Song, J.D. ’14 contributed both research and writing to the paper released today. Please see here for the full press release from HRW.

 

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November 19, 2012

“The Case Against Killer Robots”: An International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch Report

PRESS RELEASE

Ban Killer Robots Before It’s Too Late

Fully Autonomous Weapons Would Increase Danger to Civilians

November 19, Washington, DC – Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said in a report released today. These future weapons, sometimes called “killer robots,” would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention.

The 50-page report, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” outlines concerns about these fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons would weaken the law’s power to deter future violations.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”

“Losing Humanity is the first major publication about fully autonomous weapons by a nongovernmental organization and is based on extensive research into the law, technology, and ethics of these proposed weapons. It is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.

Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.

“It’s critical to take action now,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic and senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The technology is alluring, and the more nations invest in it, the harder it will be to convince them to give it up.” Continue Reading…

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