Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

People take part in a demonstration as part of the campaign "Stop Killer Robots" organised by German NGO "Facing Finance" to ban what they call killer robots on March 21, 2019 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

People take part in a demonstration as part of the campaign "Stop Killer Robots" organised by German NGO "Facing Finance" to ban what they call killer robots on March 21, 2019 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The campaign to "Stop Killer Robots" is a global coalition of 82 international and regional NGOs in 35 countries that asks for a ban on lethal fully autonomous weapons. (Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/AFP/Getty Images)

Campaign Renews Demand for Ban on 'Killer Robots,' Calls Out US Obstruction

Without a binding treaty requiring "meaningful human control over the use of force," say campaigners, lives could "be taken based on algorithms"

Andrea Germanos

Human rights advocates renewed their call for a preemptive ban on so-called "killer robots" on Monday as they accused the United States of being among a small number of countries working to halt progress on an international treaty to address the numerous concerns the weapons raise.

The accusation came a day before representatives from dozens of countries gather in Geneva to meet on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention.

The convention, according to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, has yet to produce a treaty with teeth. Such a document would effectively ban lethal autonomous weapons systems, as they're formally known, by requiring "meaningful human control over the use of force."

"Lives will be taken based on algorithms" without that kind of safeguard, the campaign said in a tweet on Sunday.

The U.S. isn't the only nation being singled out for being an outlier towards progress; the campaign says (pdf) that other military powers including Australia, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom are also thwarting the advancement of a ban.

Twenty-eight governments back (pdf) a ban.

"Most governments want to negotiate a new treaty to retain meaningful human control over the use of force," said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), which coordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, in a statement Monday. "But with a small number of countries blocking any progress," he continued, "these diplomatic talks increasingly look like an attempt to buy time and distract public attention rather than to urgently address the serious challenges raised by killer robots."

In its fresh statement, HRW summed up those challenges:

Killer robots would be unable to apply either compassion or nuanced legal and ethical judgment to decisions to use lethal force. Without these human qualities, the weapons would face significant obstacles in ensuring the humane treatment of others and showing respect for human life and dignity.

The call for a ban is backed by global public opinion, and by science and technology experts, artificial intelligence (AI) experts, Nobel laureates, and religious leaders.

"The public," said HRW's Goose, "expects greater efforts from governments to prevent the development of fully autonomous weapons, before they proliferate widely—in fact, nothing less than a legally-binding ban treaty."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·


Anti-War Veterans Group Asks Biden to 'Read Our Nuclear Posture Review Before Releasing Yours'

"Are you willing to risk a civilization-ending apocalypse by playing nuclear chicken with other nuclear-armed nations? Or will you lead us toward a planet that is free of nuclear weapons?"

Jessica Corbett ·


'Big Win' for Public Lands and Climate as US Judge Reinstates Coal Lease Ban

"It's past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Five-Alarm Crisis': US Has Shortage of 300K Teachers, School Staff

To stay in their profession, said a union leader, educators need "professional respect" including fair pay and the right "to make teaching and learning decisions for their students."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo