The international community must impose a moratorium on robot weapons which can make their own decision to kill, a UN expert told the world body’s top human rights forum Thursday, warning that they could enable war crimes to go unpunished.
“Human rights require that human beings should in one way or another retain meaningful control over weapons of war,” Christof Heyns said in a debate at the UN Human Rights Council on lethal autonomous robots, or LARs.
As a result, nations should “declare and implement national moratoria on the production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use of LARs until a framework on the future of LARs has been established”.
Drones targeting suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan are estimated to have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, including as many as 884 civilians, sowing deep anger there.
US President Barack Obama has announced new drone criteria, with lethal force only to be used when capture is not feasible and the target poses an imminent threat.
Pakistan’s council delegate Mariam Aftab called for tough measures against next-generation weapons, beyond a moratorium.
“The international community should consider a complete ban on LARs,” she said.
“We believe the experience with drones shows that once such weapons are in use, it is impossible to stop them,” she added.
Supporters of LARs say they offer life-saving potential in warfare, being able to get closer than troops to assess a threat properly.