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UN cautions countries using 'killer robots,' calls for moratorium

Killer robots, or 'tireless war machines,' run the risk of denigrating the value of human life, United Nations says.

Killer robot drones France nEUROn DassaultEnlarge
The nEUROn, an experimental drone developed by French defense group Dassault, sits at the factory floor in Istres, France, on December 19, 2012. The drone is expected to remain in testing for several years before a combat version is released sometime in 2015. (BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Armies that use killer robots — or “tireless war machines, ready for deployment at the push of a button” — must tread carefully or run the risk of denigrating the value of human life, a new report for the United Nations says.

South African professor Christof Heyns wrote the 22-page report for the UN Human Rights Commission concerning so-called killer robots, or as he describes them, “lethal autonomous robotics.”

He recommends an international moratorium on LARs and the establishment of a high-level panel to create a policy on the issue.

“There is clearly a strong case for approaching the possible introduction of LARs with great caution,” Heyns writes. “If used, they could have far-reaching effects on societal values, including fundamentally on the protection and the value of life and on international stability and security.”

Heyns is to deliver his recommendations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 29, the Associated Press said.

While robots don't act on revenge or rape, they also can't differentiate between civilian and combative targets, Heyns said, according to the AP.

He says nations must provide “considerable proof” that LARs, commonly known now as drones, are needed.

More from GlobalPost: Beware the killer robots

Among his other recommendations are:

  • Taking stock of technical advances relevant to LARs;
  • Evaluating the legal, ethical and policy issues related to LARs;
  • Creating a framework to enable the international community to address legal and policy issues arising from LARs;
  • Emphasizing the need for full transparency regarding all aspects of the development of robotic weapon systems.

The Heyns report comes on the heels of a call from Human Rights Watch to ban all “killer robots.”

HRW is taking the “initial” lead on behalf of a group of international NGOs calling for a ban on all fully autonomous weapons.

Countries like the US, China and Russia are pushing boundaries of weapons technology and taking humans out of the equation, HRW said.

“Lethal armed robots that could target and kill without any human intervention should never be built,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at HRW.

“A human should always be ‘in-the-loop’ when decisions are made on the battlefield. Killer robots would cross moral and legal boundaries, and should be rejected as repugnant to the public conscience.”

More from GlobalPost: Stop killer robots before it’s too late, HRW says

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/military/130502/un-killer-robots-drones-moratorium-human-rights-watch