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Support Grows for a Treaty to Ban Killer Robots

FILE - The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.
Support Grows for a Treaty to Ban Killer Robots
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The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is urging the United Nations to begin talks about banning the use and development of autonomous weapons systems. Representatives from more than 70 countries are attending a five-day meeting in Geneva of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Autonomous weapons systems are military robots that can independently search and attack targets based on their programming. They are often called killer robots.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a worldwide coalition of 76 organizations in 32 countries. Members include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Mines Action Canada and the Nobel Women's Initiative.

Activists say that support is growing for countries to negotiate a ban on the devices during the yearly CCW meeting in late November.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots reports that 26 countries have joined the call for a ban since the last CCW meeting in April. The group says China is agreeable to a ban on using these weapons, though not on their development. The coalition also says Russia has announced its support for a non-binding agreement.

Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch runs the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. She says pressure is increasing on the United States and other countries to support a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

"All of the ingredients are there for states to take action now," Wareham said. “The CCW operates by consensus…We will find out on Friday if any country wants to block the consensus for the proposed mandate."

The proposed mandate is to negotiate a legally binding agreement by the end of 2019. During the last meeting, France, Israel, Russia, Britain and the United States all rejected moves to ban these weapons systems.

Activists say legally binding agreements must be passed to guarantee human control over the use of deadly force. They say to fail in this would violate internationally accepted morals.

I’m Phil Dierking.

This story was originally written by Lisa Schlein for Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

autonomous - adj. existing or acting separately from other things or people ​

non-binding - adj. not able to be enforced by law​

consensus - n. a general agreement about something​

ingredient - n. a quality or characteristic that makes something possible​

mandate - n. an official order to do something​