ROME – Fully automated and autonomous lethal weapons systems must be banned now before they become a reality in tomorrow’s wars, a Vatican representative said.
The development of robotic weapons or “killer robots” will provide “the capacity of altering irreversibly the nature of warfare, becoming more detached from human agency, putting in question the humanity of our societies,” Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic told a group of experts at the United Nations in Geneva.
The archbishop, who is the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, spoke Nov. 22 at a meeting of the high contracting parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, held in Geneva on November 21-23. The Vatican mission in Geneva released the arch-bishop’s remarks on November 27.
The legal and ethical implications of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) have been discussed and on the convention’s agenda for the past five years, the archbishop said in his speech.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has defined LAWS as being “any weapon system with autonomy in its critical functions. That is, a weapon system that can select – i.e. search for or detect, identify, track, select – and attack – i.e. use force against, neutralize, damage or destroy – targets without human intervention.”