Amnesty International condemns world leaders amid ongoing humanitarian conflicts

Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, denouncing world leaders and powerful countries amid the ongoing conflicts. The organisation believes these forces have damaged and undermined the credibility of the international legal order established after 1945. For Belgium, the human rights organisation criticises the reception crisis of asylum seekers and the disastrous situation in prisons.

"Many leaders of powerful countries no longer seem to care about the fundamental values of humanity and universality, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," says Wies De Graeve, director of Amnesty International Flanders. "For example, it is astonishing to see the international community's failure to prevent the deaths of thousands of civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip, including vast numbers of children. This highlights once again that the institutions established to protect civilians and uphold human rights are no longer able to fulfil their obligations."

Major countries' role in conflict

Amnesty's annual report highlights the "blatant use of the US veto in the UN Security Council, which delayed a crucial ceasefire resolution for months". Meanwhile, the US has continued to arm Israel with munitions. The report also highlights the double standards of European countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany. "They rightly protest against war crimes by Russia and Hamas, but at the same time support the actions of the Israeli and American governments in Gaza," it said.

The report also describes how Russian forces in Ukraine "blatantly violate international rules, including indiscriminate attacks on densely populated civilian areas and energy and grain export infrastructure, and the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war."

Threat of AI

Amnesty International further warns that major developments in artificial intelligence (AI) threaten to accelerate the breakdown of the rule of law. “This is a huge threat to human rights. Regulation around AI is therefore essential,” it said.

“There is a large gap between the risks of the uncontrolled development of technologies on the one hand and regulation and protection on the other,” says De Graeve. “The future will only become more threatening if the unlimited spread of unregulated technology is not curbed. Lawlessness, discrimination and impunity are made possible by the uncontrolled use of new and existing technologies, which are routinely weaponised by militaries, politicians and businesses."

Belgian prison crisis

Belgium also receives scrutiny by Amnesty International in the annual report. The organisation points to the reception crisis of asylum seekers and the state of prisons in Belgium.

“The shelter crisis created by our government itself has now been going on for two and a half years and forces thousands of people to survive on the streets for months, a situation that seriously affects their dignity and human rights,” says De Graeve.

Furthermore, the overcrowding and deterioration of prisons are of great concern to Amnesty International. "This has disastrous consequences for the human rights of detainees, such as inadequate access to basic services - especially medical care and sanitation," it said.

Amnesty International is calling for urgent action, "given the grim situation in the world", to revitalise the international institutions designed to protect humanity. “Steps must be taken to reform the UN Security Council so that permanent members cannot use their veto powers unchecked to prevent the protection of civilians and strengthen their geopolitical alliances,” De Graeve concluded. “Governments must also take strong legislative and regulatory action to address the risks and harm caused by AI technologies and rein in Big Tech.”

Amnesty International demonstration for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Friday 17 November 2023 at the US embassy in Brussels.©BELGA PHOTO LOU LAMPAERT

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