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PACE highlights need for international regulation of lethal autonomous weapons systems

The development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) – that can select and attack targets without human intervention – requires clear regulation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, PACE has said.

Approving a resolution based on a report by Damien Cottier (Switzerland, ALDE), the Assembly said it supported a “two-tier approach” proposed by a body of European governmental experts set up under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Under that proposal, LAWS operating completely outside human control and a responsible chain of command should remain banned under international law, as at present. For other lethal weapons systems that have a certain degree of autonomy, the Assembly backed plans for international regulation to ensure appropriate human control, maintaining human responsibility and the obligation of accountability, and a series of measures to mitigate the risks.

The parliamentarians said the appropriate forum for agreement on the future regulation of such weapons systems is the Conference of States Parties of the CCW and its expert group, with the goal of “a binding text in the form of a protocol to the Convention or a specific international convention”.

Pending agreement on such a protocol, the Assembly proposed the preparation of a non-binding instrument in the form of a regularly-updated Code of Conduct.