Nia Griffith MP, Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Weapons and the Protection of civilians, will use a debate late on Monday 17th June to call on the UK Government to work with other countries on international regulation to limit the development and deployment of lethal autonomous robotics, commonly known as killer robots.
Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) are fully autonomous weapons systems that, once activated, can select and use lethal force against targets without further human intervention. The key departure from existing military technology, the factor that differentiates LARs from unmanned weapons systems such as drones, is the absence of human intervention once a fully autonomous weapons system is activated. As has never before been the case, a robot would be able to make the decision to kill a human being.
Global interest in the issue of LARs intensified on 29th May when the report by Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report called for states to put in place a moratorium on LARs, to engage in a transparent weapons review process, and to participate in international debate on these weapons. On 30th May UN member states met to discuss the report. Of the 24 states that participated, the UK was the only state to oppose a moratorium on LARs.
” We need urgent action now, before further technological development and investment make a race towards killer robots impossible to stop. This has been done previously in respect of blinding lasers – with international legal agreement to ban their use before they were ever deployed. I am calling on the UK Government to reconsider the isolationist position it took at Geneva, and to enter into further dialogue and to support international regulation on fully autonomous weapons.
“Given the revolutionary nature of the technology, its potential for dangerous malfunction and misuse, and the moral revulsion it inspires, the Government should produce a comprehensive policy on the development and use of LARs. The US, for example, has made a statutory commitment to a 5 year moratorium on fully autonomous weapons. It is not as if the issue is irrelevant to us; the UK has one of the most high-tech military industries and could be in the forefront of developing LARs. The UK’s Taranis jet-propelled combat drone prototype can already search, identify and locate enemies autonomously, and can defend itself against enemy aircraft without human intervention. But LARs go a big step further, by actually making a decision autonomously to kill a human being. I would like to see the UK using the respect it commands in the world to take the lead on limiting the proliferation of the development of these terrifying weapons. ”
Christof Heyns’ repot can be found at