No ban Autonomous weapons in sight

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Soon, so-called Killer-robot wars could decide. A group of States wants to prevent that. But at the United Nations in Geneva, the discussions stagnate on a ban of lethal Autonomous weapons.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, is alarmed: Autonomous weapons are “politically unacceptable and morally repugnant” and should be prohibited by international law. “Consider the consequences if an Autonomous weapon system can independently select people as the target and attack”, appealed to the UN Secretary-General repeatedly appealed to the international community. Their representatives are currently debating in Geneva on a ban of so-called Killer robots. But an agreement is not in sight. “You step on the spot,” reports a participant in the ongoing discussions of the German wave.

Militarization of Artificial intelligence

What sounds from the mouth of the Secretary-General as a vision of horror, is now a reality: Many armies of the world are already testing weapons in which Artificial intelligence and robotics combine to a potentially deadly technology. If machines fight independently on the battlefield, so the military logic, is spared the lives of the soldiers. Machines will not be tired and less error-prone than a human being, argue the proponents. This could even have advantages: damage to civilian facilities would be avoided.

A 2015 from the U.S. air force destroyed a hospital in the Afghan Kunduz – allegedly a “collateral damage”

Violation of international law

According to the generally accepted Definition of the International Committee of the Red cross (ICRC) to select Autonomous weapons your goal independently and tackle it independently. No soldier is actuated at the end of the trigger or presses the fire button. Even now, there are missiles, wait in the air until your target is in a favorable Position, and then independently attack.

On the battlefields of the future, prophesy, scientists are not people, but Algorithms of life and death. The be in breach of international humanitarian law. Accordingly, a distinction must be made in the case of attacks clearly between combatants and civilians. Autonomous weapons systems will not be able to afford it. “We can plant these weapons, no international law-Chip”, argue the opponents. It must be ensured that there is always a man to have the last control over an attack.

Difficult Conversations

How to ensure, it is spoken in five years at the United Nations in Geneva, in the framework of the “Convention on certain conventional weapons” (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), short CCW. It was in 1995, the use of blind do laser to ban guns before they came in Wars. Similar hoped the opponents of Autonomous weapons, but the talks are slow.

It is primarily a pioneer in the field of Autonomous weapons systems, Russia, the USA and Israel refuse to accept an international legally binding ban. These military heavyweights, a group of 28 part of the smaller States, demanding a mandatory ban, such as the only EU country to Austria. You have a strong and ever-growing support of the civil society:

Meanwhile, 113 non-government organisations from more than 50 countries, the international “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots”, the campaign against Killer robots. Also, the European Parliament, many scientists and 21-winner of the Nobel peace prize share this attitude.

Protest rally against “Killer robots” in front of the Brandenburg gate in Berlin in March 2019

Ban just on paper

Germany has none of the two sides. Although the Federal government has placed in the coalition agreement, a clear commitment: “Autonomous weapons systems, which are deprived of the disposal of the people, we reject. We want you to be an outlaw in the world.” Nevertheless, the German Delegation holds an international legally binding ban is currently unenforceable. For this purpose, the resistance is about the US and Russia was too big – and thus the risk that the negotiations fail completely. What is not mentioned, the Federal government has an interest in weapons systems of the future with Autonomous functions – such as the German-French combat aircraft, “FCAS” with the corresponding drones and satellites.

A further two years at the negotiating table?

The possibility that the talks fail, it is entirely: Currently, the proposal is on the table, to negotiate a period of two years. Until then, the vague wording should be reached a “normative framework”. This is far from the binding ban, which calls for a part of the community of States.

Thomas küchenmeister, spokesman for the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” in Germany, is disappointed by the “vague formulations” of the current proposal. The need for human control in the use of weapons of violence will be played “down,” he lamented in an interview with Deutsche Welle. Kitchen master is afraid that the discussions in the CCW in Geneva “will never lead to a mandatory ban of Autonomous weapons”.

For the past five years is discussed at the UN in Geneva on the regulation of lethal Autonomous weapons

For the critics of Autonomous weapons, that is not to say, however, that you will add: a prohibition of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions could not be reached at the UN in Geneva. The ban-supporters gathered outside the world organization, and promoted international agreements that were eventually signed in Ottawa and Oslo. Today, they are part of the applicable international law.