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UN concludes first multilateral meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems

[JURIST] The first multilateral meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) [official website] concluded on Friday at the UN headquarters in Geneva. The main objectives of the meeting [agenda, PDF], attended and sponsored by signatories of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) [official website], were to discuss key issues surrounding the use of LAWS, such as how the development of LAWS could impact humans, and whether robotics should be used at all in armed conflicts. In its closing statement, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots [advocacy website] urged all nations to continue to develop their policy and national views on LAWS outside of the CCW, in order to bring a more fully-developed perspective to the next meeting on autonomous weaponry. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], although fully autonomous weapons have not yet been developed, recent technological advances are contributing towards the increased likelihood of their development, and pre-emptive action [HRW press release] must be taken before the weapons have been fully developed.

HRW released a report last week finding that the use of fully autonomous weapons by militaries or law enforcement would be an affront to basic human rights and should be preemptively banned by international convention [JURIST report]. Last year HRW encouraged action [JURIST report] on behalf of UN members at the upcoming 2013 Convention for Conventional Weapons (CCW) [UN website] in support of France's initiative to add fully autonomous weapons to the CCW's work program for 2014. In 2012 the US was the first country to issue a governmental policy statement [text, PDF] on the use of partially and fully-autonomous weapons. However, the US has also received negative international attention for the use of unmanned military weapons, or drones [JURIST backgrounder]. Two UN rights experts have urged greater accountability [JURIST report] and transparency in the use of drone strikes. A report by the UN, following such criticism, claimed [JURIST report] the US military killed more individuals than publicly stated in a series of drone attacks.

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