Amnesty: Global rule of law on brink of collapse, fueled by AI

London — A breakdown in the international rule of law is being accelerated through rapid advancement in technology and artificial intelligence, which risks a “supercharging” of human rights violations, according to an annual report, by Amnesty International, published April 24. 

“The international rules-based order is on the brink of collapse. The violations of international law have been multiple and have increased, in fact, largely because of the increasing number of armed conflicts. Perpetrators not only violate international law but seek to justify those violations in the name of self-defense, national security, or counterterrorism,” Amnesty’s secretary-general, Agnes Callamard, told VOA.

Gaza violations

Amnesty highlights the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 34,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children. The figure, which includes Hamas combatants, cannot be independently verified.

“In a conflict that defined 2023 and shows no sign of abating, evidence of war crimes continues to mount as the Israeli government makes a mockery of international law in Gaza. Following the horrific attacks by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October, Israeli authorities responded with unrelenting air strikes on populated civilian areas often wiping out entire families, forcibly displacing nearly 1.9 million Palestinians and restricting the access of desperately needed humanitarian aid despite growing famine in Gaza,” the report says.

Amnesty’s Callamard said the Gaza conflict had seen “the greatest number of journalists killed, and the greatest number of humanitarian actors killed.”

Israel strongly denies breaking the Geneva Convention or targeting civilians, whom it says Hamas uses as human shields. Israel also denies blocking relief supplies into Gaza despite numerous such accusations from aid groups.

UN paralysis

Amnesty’s report says Israel’s Western allies have failed to stop the bloodshed, citing “the USA’s brazen use of its veto to paralyse the UN Security Council for months on a much-needed resolution for a ceasefire, as it continues to arm Israel with munitions that have been used to commit what likely amounts to war crimes.”

The United States has repeatedly defended its support for Israel, asserting that its ally has the right to defend itself following the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas that killed more than 1,100 people, with dozens of hostages still being held in Gaza.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The report also highlights widespread human rights abuses and law violations by Russia in its illegal invasion of Ukraine, including “indiscriminate attacks on densely populated civilian areas, as well as energy and grain export infrastructure; and the use of torture or other ill-treatment against prisoners of war.” Moscow denies such accusations.

The global order built in the wake of World War II is breaking down, warned Amnesty’s Callamard. “We are witnessing a rule-based order on the brink of collapse because the architects of the 1948 system, the architects of that system are failing it and are failing the people.”

Amnesty highlights a worsening civil conflict in Sudan, which it says has triggered the largest displacement crisis in the world, with more than 8 million people forced to flee. The report also highlights China’s role in providing support to Myanmar’s military junta, in its war on minority groups and crackdown on basic human rights.

Big tech and AI

Amnesty also warns of a disturbing convergence of human rights abuses and technology, including artificial intelligence, or AI.

“In an increasingly precarious world, unregulated proliferation and deployment of technologies such as generative AI, facial recognition and spyware are poised to be a pernicious foe – scaling up and supercharging violations of international law and human rights to exceptional levels,” the report said.

Amnesty said the technologies pose significant risks as huge numbers of people across the globe vote in elections in 2024.

“Politicians have long used manipulation of ‘us vs. them’ narratives to win votes and outmanoeuvre legitimate questions about economic and security fears. We’ve seen how unregulated technologies, such as facial recognition, have been used to entrench discrimination.” 

“Coupled with this, Big Tech’s surveillance business model is pouring fuel on this fire of hate, enabling those with malintent to hound, dehumanize and amplify dangerous narratives to consolidate power or polling. It’s a chilling spectre of what’s to come as technological advances rapaciously outpace accountability,” the report said.

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