A media briefing of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was held at the national Press Club Islamabad today at 3:00pm. Mr. Raza Shah Khan, Chief Executive of Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO), which is the official contact point for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Pakistan briefed the media about the issue of Fully Autonomous Weapons Systems.
Mr. Raza Shah Khan said that over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles and drones has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. This capability would pose a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
He said that several nations with high-tech militaries, particularly the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom are moving toward systems that would give greater combat autonomy to machines. If one or more chooses to deploy fully autonomous weapons, a large step beyond remote-controlled armed drones, others may feel compelled to abandon policies of restraint, leading to a robotic arms race. Agreement is needed now to establish controls on these weapons before investments, technological momentum, and new military doctrine make it difficult to change course.
Mr. Khan alarmed that allowing life or death decisions to be made by machines crosses a fundamental moral line. Autonomous robots would lack human judgment and the ability to understand context. These qualities are necessary to make complex ethical choices on a dynamic battlefield, to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians, and to evaluate the proportionality of an attack. As a result, fully autonomous weapons would not meet the requirements of the laws of war.
Mr. Khan appreciated the leading role of Pakistan and mentioned that in May 2013, Pakistan became the first nation to call for fully autonomous weapons to be prohibited and it has repeatedly urged the creation of a new international ban instrument on the weapons. Pakistan has expressed multiple concerns with these weapons, finding that they will violate international humanitarian and human rights law as well as lower the threshold for going to war. Pakistan participated in the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meetings on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) in 2014-2016. Its representative Ambassador Tehmina Janjua served as president of the CCW’s Fifth Review Conference in December 2016, where states agreed to establish a Group of Governmental Experts on LAWS.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons, also known as lethal autonomous weapons systems or killer robots. This should be achieved through new international law (a treaty), as well as through national laws and other measures.
We are concerned about weapons that operate on their own without meaningful human control. The campaign seeks to prohibit taking the human ‘out-of-the-loop’ with respect to targeting and attack decisions on the battlefield.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has been established to provide a coordinated civil society response to the multiple challenges that fully autonomous weapons pose to humanity.
In light of the dangers posed by fully autonomous weapons and the inability to address these dangers other than with a ban, the campaign calls on states to:
- Adopt an international, legally binding instrument that prohibits the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons;
- Adopt national laws or policies that establish prohibitions on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons; and
- Companies and individuals working on artificial intelligence and related technologies should support the call for a ban and pledge not to help develop fully autonomous weapons.
About the Campaign
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition working to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons. SPADO officially represents the campaign in Pakistan and deliver statements and briefings on behalf of the campaign.