Killer robots condemned by religious groups that want them banned

(Image: © 2020 Brian Stauffer for Human Rights Watch)Religious groups and NGOs says all countries have a duty to save humanity by retaining meaningful human control over the use of force and banning fully autonomous weapons, or killer robots.

An array of Christian and faith organizations have called for the rejection of weapons systems that select targets without meaningful human control using killer robot, saying they are unacceptable and need to be banned.

The World Council of Churches, the Catholic Pax Christi Northern California group, and the Japanese Buddhist group Soka Gakkai International issued a joint statement, entitled "A Plea for Preserving Our Shared Humanity" for International Day of Human Fraternity, Feb. 4.

"An urgent and firm rejection of the development of fully autonomous weapons is essential to preserving our shared humanity," they said about the use of the weapons relating to the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder."

They said in a statement, "As people of faith, we unite our voices on the occasion of the first International Day of Human Fraternity to express concern over the insidious development of weapons systems that lack meaningful human control.

"Our shared belief in the inalienable dignity of the human person and the inestimable worth of human life demands our vigilance toward new forms of military technology that mediate the use of lethal force, especially in armed conflict and policing."

The statement says that an urgent and firm rejection of the development of fully autonomous weapons is essential to preserving our shared humanity.

"Machine learning that processes vast amounts of digital information tends to replicate existing biases, causing a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations.

"Fully autonomous weapons would lower the threshold for international armed conflict, and they could also be used for domestic terrorism, insurrection, policing and border control," the signatories of the statement warned.

They called on the "UN member States and all people of goodwill to commit to preserving meaningful human control over the use of force, and enact a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons."

They note that as the world's technological evolution overtakes "our ethical evolution," we must place firm limits on emerging technologies that undermine the ties that bind us as members of a single human family.


Human Rights Watch says that it and other nongovernmental organizations launched the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in 2013.

HRW says the question of how to respond to concerns over fully autonomous weapons has steadily climbed the international agenda.

"The challenge of killer robots, like climate change, is widely regarded as a grave threat to humanity that deserves urgent multilateral action," says HRW.

The NGO notes that since 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly urged States to prohibit weapons systems that could, by themselves, target and attack human beings, calling them "morally repugnant and politically unacceptable."

It says, "Fully autonomous weapons, also known as 'killer robots,' would be able to select and engage targets without meaningful human control. Precursors to these weapons, such as armed drones, are being developed and deployed by nations including China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States."

COVID-19 delayed the first 2020 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting on killer robots, to have opened at the UN in Geneva on Aug. 10. Then in November, organizers failed to agree on a program.

The International Committee of the Red Cross  desribed the Convention on Certain Conventional Weaponsis as an "important treaty."

"Along with the Geneva Conventions of1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, the Convention is oneof the principal instruments of international humanitarian law," says the ICRC.

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