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ECOWAS states adopt Freetown Communiqué

Following the first-ever African meeting on autonomous weapons in Freetown, Sierra Leone, ECOWAS states adopted the Freetown Communiqué calling for a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons systems.

On 17th and 18th April, in Freetown, Sierra Leone hosted an ECOWAS conference on autonomous weapon systems under the theme ‘Peace and security aspects of autonomous weapon systems: an ECOWAS perspective on a path towards the negotiation of a legally binding instrument’. This conference concluded in the adoption of the Freetown Communiqué, which recognises that existing governance mechanisms including international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law should be strengthened ‘by establishing new legally binding rules, with prohibitions and regulations that effectively address the threats and challenges posed by autonomous weapons systems.’

Dr Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, noted in his keynote address that ‘autonomous weapon systems are emerging as one of the most fundamental challenges that we must confront as part of collective responsibility to safeguard global peace, security and human dignity.’ He welcomed the ‘growing global call to finalise negotiations on a legally binding instrument’ to regulate and prohibit autonomous weapons, and called for ‘rigorous debate and careful consideration’ of machines being allowed to make life and death decisions on the battlefield.

majority of African states support the negotiation of new international law on autonomy in weapons systems.

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