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Use of robots for military purposes in Gaza

Stop Killer Robots notes with serious concern the reports of Israel’s increased use of robots for military purposes, including remote-controlled robot ‘dogs’, for surveillance purposes in Gaza, and the previously reported use of an automated target recommendation tool. While the robots and systems in question do not appear to be weaponised, the increasing use of robots in conflict should serve as a significant warning and call to action to the international community about the need for urgent progress in their efforts to ensure meaningful human control over the use of force.

The use of robots equipped with sensors and automated systems by states raises significant concerns over the increasing levels of digital dehumanisation in conflict, and the lack of regulation despite the growing use of these technologies. Uncertainties around the capabilities of robots used by militaries, the extent of their autonomous functions, and their potential weaponisation, further highlight why new international law on autonomy in weapons systems is urgently needed.

These developments also demonstrate that despite six robotics companies previously taking a clear stand against the weaponisation of the technologies they produce, recent reported use of robots and automated systems in both Gaza and Ukraine show that self regulation won’t be sufficient to deal with the challenges posed to the protection of civilians and international humanitarian law by emerging technologies.

The protection of civilians, the reinforcement of multilateralism and international humanitarian law are needed now more than ever. In an increasingly fractured world, states at the United Nations have an opportunity to play a positive role by taking tangible steps towards the creation of essential safeguards on autonomous weapons and emerging technologies.

Stop Killer Robots believes that technology should be developed and used to promote peace, justice, human rights, equality and respect for law – not for autonomous killing or for the further entrenchment or reproduction of inequality and oppression.

With the UN Secretary-General, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and more than 100 countries having called for a legal instrument on autonomous weapons systems, there is an urgent need for clear prohibitions and regulations on autonomy in weapons systems in international law.

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