US rejects calls for regulating or banning ‘killer robots’

Instead of a binding agreement regulating or prohibiting the employment of “killer robots,” the United States has proposed a “code of conduct” at the United Nations.
A US official scoffed at the concept of limiting the deployment of such “lethal autonomous weapons” through a “legally-binding instrument” during a meeting in Geneva aimed at establishing common ground.
The gathering saw government experts preparing for high-level discussions at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Review Conference, which will take place from December 13 to 17.
“In our opinion, the best approach to achieve progress… is to draught a non-binding code of conduct,” said US official Josh Dorosin at the conference. Since 2017, the United Nations has hosted diplomatic talks in Geneva aiming at establishing a consensus on how to deal with the use of killer robots. Activists in a number of countries have demanded an outright ban on any weapon that may employ fatal force without a human overseeing the process and issuing the final kill order.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, joined the call for a ban in November 2018, although governments have yet to agree on whether there is a need to control the weapons. Several countries, notably India and the United States, criticized the idea of a legally binding pact during Thursday’s debate.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ Mary Wareham and Jody Williams pose with their mascot, ‘David Wreckham.’
A code of conduct, according to Dorosin, “would assist states in promoting responsible behavior and compliance with international law.”
Activists disagreed. “States have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure meaningful human control over the use of force and prevent a world where robots decide life-or-death decisions,” said Clare Conboy, founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
In a statement, Bonnie Docherty, a senior armaments researcher at HRW, stated, “An independent procedure to negotiate new rules on killer robots would be more effective and inclusive than the current diplomatic talks.”