The African Group against Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), or Killer Robots, has intensified the campaign to ban the proliferation of such systems, saying it undermines global peace and security.
Calling for legal restrictions and control, the African Group said it “finds it inhumane, abhorrent, repugnant, and against public conscience for humans to give up control to machines, allowing machines to decide who lives or dies, how many lives and whose life is acceptable as collateral damage when force is use.”
In its statement to the Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) at the United Nations in Geneva, the African Group, made up African States and stakeholder institutions, strongly asserted that technology should be solely dedicated for the prosperity and progress of human beings in all spheres of life.
According to the Group, human control over weapon systems should not be seen as a matter of good-will by States but a legal standard that they ought to fully abide by.
LAWS or robotic weapons are autonomous military robots that can independently search and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs may operate in the air, on land, on water, under water, or in space. The autonomy of current systems as of 2018 is restricted in the sense that a human gives the final command to attack – though there are exceptions with certain “defensive” systems.
But according to the African Group, if the definition or elements suggested for human control do not meet the established legal standards that govern use of force, then such control is insufficient.
The African Group, which is part of a global anti-Laws campaign, stressed that challenges that are posed by LAWS such as those related to the question whether LAWS can comply with International Humanitarian Law rules of precaution, distinction, and proportionality; the challenge that use of LAWS may create an accountability gap in violation of victims’ rights to remedy.
Touching on the concept of human-machine interaction and the notion of human control, the Group acknowledged a general consensus among States on the need to maintain human control over use of weapon systems.
“For that reason, in adopting General Comment Number 3 on Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights concerning the right to life, African states agreed in paragraph 35 that any machine autonomy in the selection of human targets or the use of force should be subject to meaningful human control.
“The use of such new technologies should follow the established rules of international law,” the group said.
The African Group observed that the term “Meaningful Human Control” has not been defined, and that other terms have been used to describe human control such as “sufficient human control” or “appropriate levels of human judgment.”
However, the Group believes that it did not matter what name or term is used to describe human control.
“Rather, what matters is the substance and standards of that control. While various considerations will play a role in defining or articulating the required level of human control, the African Group emphasises the following four points:
“First, human control should be defined and understood in terms of legal principles – in particular, those codified in international law treaties and customary international law binding on all States.
“Secondly, principles of humanity and dictates of public conscience as enunciated in the Marten’s Clause must be taken seriously when considering what aspects of weapon systems must remain under human control. Notions of dignity and humanity are the parents of all other humans’ rights and should govern human conduct including human inventions.
“Third, fully autonomous weapons systems or LAWS that are not under human control should be banned, even so, before they come into existence. Until this ban is achieved, which we hope would be sooner than later, the African Group calls for a moratorium on the development and manufacture of such weapons systems without impediments or constraints on the use and transfer of the relevant emerging technologies for peaceful and civilian purposes.
“Lastly, given the seriousness of this issue and its possible disruptive implications, the African Group joins States and organisations recommending the conclusion of a legally binding instrument on the issue at hand at the earliest,” it said.
By Edmund Mingle/adrdaily.com