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Lethal Autonomous Weapons

The CCW Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) took place from 13 to 16 May 2014 at the United Nations in Geneva.

At the 2013 CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties, a new mandate on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) was agreed on. The mandate states:

“…Chairperson will convene in 2014 a four-day informal Meeting of Experts, from 13 to 16 May 2014, to discuss the questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems, in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention. He will, under his own responsibility, submit a report to the 2014 Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention, objectively reflecting the discussions held.”

The Meeting of Experts was chaired by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France. The formal letter of invitation to the Meeting of Experts on LAWS is available in both English and French.

The Agenda is available.

Hide details for Presentations and statements from the Meeting of ExpertsPresentations and statements from the Meeting of Experts

General exchange
Director General of UNOG
Czech Republic
Holy See
New Zealand
Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
Sierra Leone
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States
Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
Nobel Women’s Initiative
Article 36
Association for Aid and Relief, Japan
Human Rights Watch
International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Technical Issues (Part 1)
Dr. Raja ChatilaCentre National de la Recherce Scientifique, France: The concept of autonomy
Dr. Paul Scharre, Centre for a New American Security, USA: Existing systems and technologies. Is there a trend towards increasing autonomy?
Professor Ronald Arkin, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Professor Noel Sharkey, University of Shefield, UK
Technical Issues (Part 2)
Dr. Jean-Paul LaumondCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France: Robotique humanoide (Humanoid Robotics)
Mr. Hajime Wakuda, Director for Defense Industry, Aerospace and Defense Industry Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan: Robotics and applications
Dr. Yong Woon Park, Director, Principal Researcher, Agency for Defense Development (Defense Unmanned Technology Centre), Republic of Korea: The Trend of Autonomous Technology for Military Robot (with robotic views of Autonomy)
Dr. Quentin Ladetto, Director, Future Technologies, Research Management and Operation Research, Federal Department of Defence, Switzerland
Ethics and Sociology
Dr. Dominique Lambert, Université de Namur, Belgium: The ethics of robotics and the human-machine interrelation
Dr. Peter Asaro, Stanford Law School, USA, & Vice-Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control: Ethical questions raised by military applications of robotics
Legal Aspects (Part 1) International Humanitarian Law
Dr. Nils Melzer, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Switzerland: Principle of humanity and Martens Clause
Dr. Matthew Waxman, Columbia Law University, USA: Implementation of Article 36 and Jus in bello
Dr. Marco Sassoli, Geneva Academy, Switzerland: LAWS – advantages and problems compared with other weapon systems from the point of view of IHL
Legal Aspects (Part 2) Other areas of international law
Dr. Thilo Marauhn, University of Giessen, Germany: Responsibility and accountability
Dr. Christof Heyns, University of Pretoria, South Africa: Human Rights Law issues
Dr. Nils Melzer, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Switzerland: Jus ad bellum
Operational and Military Aspects
Dr. Mark Hagerott, United States Naval Academy, USA
Dr. Heigo Sato, Takushoku University, Japan: Military implications of LAWS and possible ways to develop a risk management scheme
Lt. Col. Olivier Madiot, French Armed Forces: Views of the Joint Staff
Col. (Ret.) Wolfgang Richter, Germany: Utility and limitations of the use of LAWS in military operations
Czech Republic
Summaries by the Friends of the Chair
Technical issues – Ambassador Michael Biontino (Germany)
Ethics and sociological issues – Ambassador Pedro Motta Pinto Coelho (Brazil)
Legal aspects (Part 1) – Ambassador Aya Thiam (Mali)
Legal aspects (Part 2) – Ambassador Yvette Stevens (Sierra Leone)
Operational and military aspects – Chair, Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel (France)
Closing Statements
Sierra Leone
United Kingdom
International Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Guidance on registering for the Meeting of Experts is attached here.

Press release by the International Committee of the Red Cross on lethal autonomous weapons systems

Meeting of Experts – Debate on the pros and cons of lethal autonomous weapons systems, Tuesday 13 May, afternoon session, Conference Room XIX

The Meeting of Experts will include a debate between two leading robotics experts – Professor Ronald Arkin and Professor Noel Sharkey. In preparation for this debate, the following articles by Professor Arkin and Sharkey are available:

Arkin, Ronald – Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant

Sharkey, Noel – The evitability of autonomous robots warfare

Sharkey, Noel – Towards a principle for the human supervisory control of robot weapons

Hide details for Side eventsSide events
Side events hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots were held in Conference Room XXII at 13:00:

Tuesday, May 13: The Need for New International Law- Moderated by Ms. Sarah Knuckey of New York University and featuring:

  • Ms. Bonnie Docherty, Human Rights Watch
  • Mr. Brian Wood, Amnesty International
  • Prof. David Akerson, International Committee on Robot Arms Control

Wednesday, May 14: Technical and Operational Concerns- Moderated by Prof. Denise Garcia of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control
(ICRAC) and featuring:

  • Prof. Noel Sharkey, ICRAC
  • Dr. Heather Roff, ICRAC
  • Dr. Juergen Altmann, ICRAC
  • Ms. Maya Brehm, Article 36

Thursday, May 15: Ethical and Moral Concerns- Moderated by Dr. Steve Wright of ICRAC and featuring:

  • Dr. Peter Asaro, ICRAC
  • Ms. Miriam Struyk, PAX
  • Dr. Charli Carpenter, Article 36

Friday, May 16: The Way Forward –Moderated by Beatrice Fihn of WILPF and featuring:

  • Ms. Jody Williams, Nobel Women’s Initiative and Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Ambassador Jayathana Dhanapala, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
  • Mr. Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Potentially LAWS could identify and attack a target without human intervention. This issue was first brought to the international community’s attention by Human Rights Watch in its report titled “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots as part of its advocacy on LAWS produced this short film explaining the background to LAWS and work being undertaken within the United Nations and civil society.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots attended the Meeting of Experts. Attached here is a list of their experts. During the Meeting of Experts the Campaign hosted four side events.

Background information on LAWS

LAWS is a very new issue. Below are articles on LAWS that may be useful to delegations:

American Society of International Law – Panel on Autonomous Weaponry and Armed Conflict

Asaro, Peter – On banning autonomous weapon systems: human rights, automation, and the dehumanization of lethal decision-making

Anderson, Kenneth and Waxman, Matthew – Law and Ethics for Autonomous Weapons Systems: Why a Ban Won’t Work and How the Laws of War Can

Heyns, Christof – Report on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (focusing on lethal autonomous weapons systems)

Marchant, Gary; Allenby, Braden; Arkin, Ronald; Barrett, Edward; Borenstein, Jason; Gaudet, Lyn; Kitterie, Orde; Lin, Patrick; Lucas, George; O’Meara, Richard; and Silberman, Jared – International Governance of Autonomous Military Robots (from The Colombia, Science and Technology Law Review)

Marsh, Nicholas (2014) Defining the Scope of AutonomyPRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Lin, Ptrick; Bekey, George; and Abney, Keith – Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design

Sharkey, Noel – Weapons of Indiscriminate Lethality

Schmitt, Michael – Autonomous Weapon Systems and International Humanitarian Law: A Reply to the Critics 

UNIDIR – Framing Discussions on the Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies

International Institute of Humanitarian Law – International Humanitarian Law and New Weapon Technologies


















16 May 2014

The four-day meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems held under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) concluded today. 

This was the very first step by States, United Nations organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations to examine the implications of autonomous weapons.  The meeting attracted record attendance.  Discussions were held on the ethical, legal, military and technical aspects of these weapons systems.

“Autonomous weapons are a complex issue.  We had very fruitful discussions on many aspects of lethal autonomous weapons systems.  The discussions held during the meeting took place in very constructive atmosphere and showed that there is a real interest in continuing to explore the issue at the CCW,” said Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon Michel of France, who chaired the meeting.  “The challenging nature of autonomous weapons was reflected in highly interactive and lively debates.”

CCW States parties will take a decision on future work on autonomous weapons at their formal meeting in November.

For use of the information media; not an official record


Mathematics Of Murder, Autonomous Cars and Robotic Soldiers: Should A Robot Sacrifice Your Life To Save Two?

PRIO Researchers Contribute to Debate on Lethal Autonomous Weapons

… discuss the challenges of a future prohibition of lethal autonomous weapons systems, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and NRK Ytring.

The Pilot

Vatican official voices opposition to automated weapons systems

No matter how sophisticated autonomous weapons systems are, they can never … May 13-16 to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems such as drones. … “Autonomous weapon systems technology makes war too easy and …

Robotics Expert to Debate Pros and Cons of Autonomous Weapons at the UN

During a UN meeting last year, a new mandate on lethal autonomous weaponssystems was agreed. The mandate instructed the organisation of this …
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Should robots kill without human supervision?

Israel’s Harpy is a “fire-and-forget” autonomous weapon system designed to detect, … For instance, in the heat of battle, would an autonomous weapon be … opposed to the removal of lethal autonomous systems from the battlefield, …
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Calls for ban on “killer” robots in theatres of war

Lethal autonomous weapon systems, known by their critics as killer robots, are not yet in existence. However, a UN conference in Geneva, Switzerland …
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Why the United Nations Is Talking About Killer Robots

Killer robots, or “lethal autonomous weapons systems” are machines that would be able to select their targets without direct human mediation.

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