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Crunch Time: European positions on lethal autonomous weapon systems

The report provides an overview of the positions of European states in 2018 on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), also known as ‘killer robots’.

The report finds that there is a general agreement that there is a ‘red line’ beyond which increasing autonomy in weapons systems is no longer acceptable. European states also agree that there must be human control over the use of force and that there is a need to work towards concrete policy outcomes.

The focus on what in these discussions is called ‘meaningful human control’ could be a good way of moving forward with the discussions. A next step then should be to operationalise this concept, in order to determine what the adequate form and level of human control should be to ensure compliance with ethical and legal norms. The report notes that a number of European states support a political declaration, which would not be as strong as a legal instrument. This reflects the balance that European states try to seek: on the one hand having technologically highly advanced militaries and thus wary of limiting their military capabilities. At the same time they value existing legal and ethical norms and acknowledge there are concerns related to LAWS.

The original publication can be found on the PAX website here. it is in the interest of European states to work towards a legally binding instrument ensuring meaningful human control over the critical systems.


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