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Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Killing and IDPs
May 30, 2013

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

May 29, 2013


The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur for presenting his report on what he calls lethal autonomous robotics (“LARs”) and what we would refer to as autonomous weapons systems.

We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s recognition of U.S. Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, a policy that establishes a prudent, flexible, and responsible framework for the development and use of autonomous capabilities in weapons systems, including a stringent review process for certain, new types of autonomous weapons that might be proposed in the future.  As reflected in this and other directives, the United States remains committed to complying with the law of war, also called international humanitarian law (IHL), with respect to all new weapons systems and their use in armed conflict.

Although we may differ on some aspects of the report, we agree that lethal autonomous weapons may present important legal, policy, and ethical issues, and we call on all States to proceed in a lawful, prudent, and responsible manner when considering whether to incorporate automated and autonomous capabilities in weapon systems.

As the report suggests, this is not an entirely new issue.  Some existing weapon systems meet the basic definition of an autonomous weapon as used in this report.   For example, for decades, the United States has operated defensive systems, such as the ship-based Aegis or land-based Patriot surface-to-air missile defenses, which can operate in a human-supervised autonomous mode to defend against time-critical air and missile attacks.  At the same time, as the report also correctly notes, “[t]echnology may in some respects be less advanced than is suggested by popular culture.”  For example, for U.S. unmanned aircraft, human operators control weapons employment at all times; they are not autonomous weapons.

We welcome further discussion among States of the legal, policy, and technological implications associated with lethal autonomous weapons.  However, we note that these implications go beyond the Human Rights Council’s core expertise.  We therefore would like to see such discussion take place in an appropriate forum that has a primary focus on international humanitarian law issues, with the participation of States that have incorporated or are considering incorporating automated and autonomous capabilities in weapon systems.  In such a discussion among States, we believe that it will be important to ensure that technical, military, and IHL expertise is included.

Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

The United States welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s report on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), including the focus on internally displaced women. Protection of women and girls affected by conflict is a priority for the United States and we encourage consideration of the report’s recommendations.

The worldwide number of people internally displaced by conflict or human rights violations has reached an all-time high of over 28 million people.  This is an increase of nearly 10 percent in the last year alone.  This number is double the total number of refugees worldwide. Given the magnitude of this problem, we strongly support the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to identify the way forward for strengthening protection and assistance for these vulnerable people.

We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to increase attention to the human rights of IDPs within the broader United Nations system and in the wider humanitarian community through participation in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.  We urge stronger and more regular communication with UN development actors who can play a key role in helping to secure sustainable and long-lasting solutions to internal displacement that will help ensure that they fully enjoy their basic human rights.

Mr. Beyani, how do you plan to support efforts to implement the African Union’s Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa that has recently come into force?