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Thursday 28 August 2014

UN ponders law on 'killer robots'

Published 13/05/2014 | 13:02

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A robot in Parliament Square, central London, during a photocall for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Diplomats are calling for new international laws to govern any future use of "killer robots".

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The debate is the first to be held at the United Nations about the limits and responsibilities of so-called lethal autonomous weapons systems that could go beyond human-directed drones.

At the start of a four-day meeting, many nations said existing laws will not cover future weapons that could decide on targets without human intervention.

US diplomat and legal adviser Stephen Townley cautioned the meeting against trying to pre-judge the uses of emerging technologies.

But Michael Moeller, acting head of the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, urged the adoption of pre-emptive new laws to ensure human control, because "all too often international law only responds to atrocities and suffering once it has happened".

Mr Moeller, a Danish diplomat, said: "You have the opportunity to take pre-emptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control."

German ambassador Michael Biontino told the meeting: "It is indispensable to maintain control of the decision to kill another person."

Brazilian Pedro Motto Pinto Coelho added that the automation of the battlefield seems inevitable, but it is not a new phenomenon, and "the fascination produced by technology shall not prevent us from raising relevant questions about the convenience and consequences of our future choices".

Press Association

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