Fully autonomous weapons, already denounced as “killer robots”, should be banned by international treaty before they can be developed, a new report urges the United Nations .

Under existing laws, computer programmers, manufacturers and military commanders would all escape liability for deaths caused by such machines, according to the study published on Thursday by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School.

Nor is there likely to be any clear legal framework in future that would establish the responsibility of those involved in producing or operating advanced weapons systems, say the authors of Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots.

The report is released ahead of an international meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems at the UN in Geneva starting on 13 April. The session will discuss additions to the convention on certain conventional weapons.

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