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Committee highlights need for international regulation of lethal autonomous weapons systems

The emergence of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) – that can select and attack targets without human intervention – requires clear regulation of their development and use, to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, said the Legal Affairs Committee, by adopting the report of Damien Cottier (Switzerland, ALDE) today in Paris.

Supporting a “two-tier approach” submitted by a group of European States to the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on this issue – set up by the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) – the committee noted that LAWS operating completely outside human control and a responsible chain of command are prohibited by international law as it stands now.

With regard to other lethal weapons systems with a certain degree of autonomy, the committee supported the proposal to develop international regulation to ensure appropriate human control, maintaining human responsibility and the obligation of accountability, and implementing measures to mitigate the risks.

The parliamentarians considered that the appropriate forum to agree on the future regulation of LAWS is the Conference of States Parties of the CCW and its GGE, with the long-term goal of “a binding text in the form of a protocol to the CCW or a specific international convention”.

Pending consensus among States, the committee proposed the preparation of a non-binding instrument in the form of a regularly updated code of conduct.