Amnesty: 'Moral failure' over Gaza leaves world order 'on brink of collapse'

Charity accuses Israel of causing famine and allies of abandoning human rights ideals

Palestinians are facing worse violence than when thousands were displaced in 1948, Amnesty International says. Reuters
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The world order built from the ruins of 1945 is "on the brink of collapsing" due to Israel's assault on Gaza and the failure of allies such as the US to stop the violence, Amnesty International has said.

In an annual report, the charity accused Israel of indiscriminate bombings and an "engineered famine", and allies of flouting the high human rights ideals they helped to design.

"For millions the world over, Gaza now symbolises utter moral failure by many of the architects of the post-World War Two system," it said.

Amnesty says it is turning to the courts to pile pressure on countries such as the UK to halt military support for Israel.

However, it is not yet accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza and will "take the time required" to decide whether to level that charge, its secretary general Agnes Callamard told The National.

"The threshold for demonstrating, in particular, genocidal intent on the part of Israel is a difficult threshold which demands time," she said.

In a 418-page report:

· Amnesty said Palestinians were living through a "far more violent and destructive version" of the events in 1948 in which many were displaced

· Israel and Hamas are both accused of war crimes, with thousands of Palestinians said to have "died needlessly" as a result of attacks on hospitals and a lack of water, food and medicine

· Field investigations suggest more than 200 people were killed in nine "unlawful" Israeli air strikes in which it attacked civilians or did not take steps to protect them

· Allies of Israel are described as showing "grotesque double standards" by condemning violence by Hamas, and by Russia in Ukraine, but continuing to back Israel

· The US is accused of having "weaponised its veto power" to stop the UN Security Council issuing a call for a ceasefire.

'Never again' under threat

Ms Callamard said the post-1945 promise of "never again" - embodied in documents such as the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of 1948 - was under threat.

Amnesty's report said the "moral and legal lessons" of the Second World War and the Holocaust "were torn into a million pieces" in 2023.

"Too many were plunged into the very hell that the 1948 generation sought to end for all time," Ms Callamard told reporters in London.

"The international system that was set up after 1948 is on the brink of collapsing ... those institutions are not delivering because they are intentionally disrupted or weakened by the action of powerful states."

Israel responded to "horrific attacks" by Hamas last October with a retaliatory attack that "soon became a campaign of collective punishment", Ms Callamard said.

She said there was "mounting evidence" of war crimes and an "irrefutable risk" of genocide, a matter being considered by the International Court of Justice after a case brought by South Africa against Israel.

Amnesty is "committed to upholding the highest standard of accuracy and impartiality" and is "taking the process of determination of whether or not this amounts to genocide very seriously", she said.

"We will take the time required in order to reach a conclusion that cannot be faulted," she said.

Israel denies genocidal intent, saying it is acting in self-defence against Hamas - a stance largely accepted by allies such as the US and Germany, even as they urge it to provide more aid to Palestinians.

Germany separately appeared before the ICJ to deny a Nicaraguan charge of complicity in genocide, saying it is trying to do right by Israelis and Palestinians in a complex situation.

Amnesty is hoping to give evidence in a case brought against the UK government on arms exports to Israel, which officials argue are relatively minor.

"The very minimum that's required from the government is an immediate halt to arms sales to Israel," as well as increased aid and a call for a permanent ceasefire said Amnesty's UK chief executive Sacha Desmukh.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the UK will be judged harshly by history for its failure to help prevent civilian slaughter in Gaza," he said.

Updated: April 24, 2024, 11:27 AM