Armour: Autonomous weapons a danger to region

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC - File photo
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC - File photo

ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour, SC, and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds added their voices to calls for the regulation of autonomous weapon systems (AWSs), addressing a conference held by the regional security network, Caribbean IMPACS, at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, on Tuesday.

The conference heard that AWSs included landmines, air defence systems, active protection weapons, and potentially drones (once having appropriate software.)

IMPACS head Lt Col Michael Jones said AWSs were now being used in the Ukraine-Russia War.

In his address, Armour said the region had called for a pressing and legally-binding instrument to govern the use of AWS.

He said AWS devices were controlled by algorithms, not human interaction.

Armour noted a need to enforce regulations, transparency and innovation in the development and deployment of those systems. With honesty and transparency the region can together forge a path towards ethical governance of AWS and so safeguard humanity's future, he said.

Hinds, in his address, said the devices were now widely deployed. Having seen AWS devices deployed in a conflict zone some years ago, he said the weaponry now posed a threat to this region.

Asked about where TT was regarding legal regulation of AWSs, the AG said, "The reality is that we are in this particular conference which follows the one we had in July this year. We are concentrating on AWSs which are weapons that are not manned by human intervention. They are driven by algorithms.

"It means there is no possibility of a weapon being able to pause. If you just take the classic example where somebody is aiming a gun at somebody across the street and a child begins to run across the street."

He said a soldier would be able to pause in his action but not an automated weapon run by an algorithm, resulting in civilians becoming major casualties if/when AWSs are developed and deployed.

"Our concern out of this conference, the second such conference, is to take the leadership role – TT with our Caricom colleagues – to encourage an international treaty that will regulate the responsible use of these new weapon systems, which without regulation have the potential to do massive harm to our civilians and our human dignity."

Newsday mulled AWS regulation, by asking how successful TT/Caricom has been in regulating the small arms trade, in light of gun proliferation in TT.

Armour replied, "Caricom nations have been very successful in participating in small-arms treaties. We are confident we have a role to play. We punch above our weight in many respects, in many forums.

"We are confident we should take the lead in this particular (AWS) discussion, because it is critical to our security."

Newsday said the immediate threat to citizens was criminals with firearms, not AWSs.

The AG replied, "Well the short point is while we deal with our present realities and our present challenges, we can't be so intimated by the future challenges that we don't claim our right to address the future challenges, even as we acknowledge that our present challenges are pressing and we could do more with our present challenges.

"So we are not going to pause on our grasp of our future (just) because our present challenges are constraining."

Newsday asked when would AWS weapons reach the Caribbean in any form.

Armour said, "I couldn't predict that and wouldn't want to, but I would say it is urgent. I'd use the word 'urgent.'"

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said AWS weapons had already been deployed elsewhere in an unregulated manner and the world was now having to catch up.

"I'm very happy by today's intervention and I'm encouraged by it. It is better late than never."


"Armour: Autonomous weapons a danger to region"

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