Amnesty Warns the International Order Is on the Brink of Collapse Over Gaza

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International Order and Gaza

President of the Al Sharq Forum and former Al Jazeera director Wadah Khanfar appeared on multiple forums in the early days of the Gaza genocide, warning that so grave is Israel’s undermining of the post-World War II established international order that it’s likely going to fall over.

Early last November, as Khanfar was issuing his assessment regarding the impact of the Gaza catastrophe, so extreme was his opinion on the entire global order being under threat, that fellow commentators appearing alongside him raised their doubts about his opinion.

Five months on, however, this opinion is beginning to inhabit the mainstream, with one clear example being that Amnesty International last week issued its own pronouncement cautioning that “the international system is on the brink of collapse” precisely because of the catastrophe in Gaza.

“Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law is compounded by the failures of its allies to stop the indescribable civilian bloodshed,” Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard told Democracy Now on 25 April.

The head of the human rights organisation, which isn’t known for its hyperbole, added that those allies who are facilitating the Gaza genocide, which includes the AUKUS and NATO powers, are “the very architects” of the 80-odd year-old international law system.

International law is crumbling

The international crimes that Khanfar and Callamard cite Israel as breaking were established via the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and were built upon by the 1977 additional protocols, and these crimes are further outlawed under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The reason why Israel’s flagrant and numerous breaches of these laws are threatening the international order is that these crimes, coupled with the tacit support of western allies, reveal that the global system can’t prevent crime, it permits injustice, and it only applies to certain peoples.

“Since October 7, we have… documented a plethora of violations committed, first by Hamas and then by the Israeli authorities,” Callamard told Democracy Now host Amy Goodman.

“But in particular, the Israeli authorities have been – you know, have committed an extraordinary amount of violations of international law,” she continued, “the indiscriminate and targeted bombing of civilians.”

Callamard then listed some of the atrocities that continue in Gaza that are of so grave a nature that the world order is threatened. And these included tens of thousands of civilians having been killed, while 70 percent of civilian infrastructure has been levelled, including schools and hospitals.

“We know that famine is being used as a weapon of war. We know that collective punishment has been waged,” the Amnesty boss underscored. And she added that evidence of extrajudicial killings is mounting as unmarked mass graves have been discovered at hospital site that Israel attacked.

Further the number of journalists and humanitarian aid workers killed by the Israeli state since October has also never been witnessed before in modern warfare, as are “the harms to civilians” and “the scale of the violations committed over the last six months.”

Rights framework fading

Callamard made these comments as Amnesty released its annual report, The State of the World’s Human Rights 2024, in which she outlines in a preface that “she never expected the state of human rights” to plummet so low as to undermine the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But it has and she warns that authoritarianism is rising with it. Callamard then points to political research centre V-Dem having last year found that the number of people living in democratic nations has dropped below 1985-levels, adding that the “era was all too brief and today is as good as gone”.

And she further set out that underlying this growing authoritarianism are hate-filled public narratives that are “rooted in fear” and serve to demonise marginalised people, such as “refugees, migrants and racialised groups”.

These narratives are obviously playing out in the Australian setting with government becoming increasingly opaque, a spike in the fear of terrorism accompanied by suspicions over the Muslim community, and the current administration is again cracking down on asylum seekers.

This backlash, Callamard adds, also encompasses attacks on women’s rights and gender equality, with recently released statistics in this country outlining that there has been 30-odd incidents of women being killed as a result of men’s violence so far this year.

Indeed, much more detrimental than a recent nonfatal stabbing at a church in Sydney’s west, which has been labelled a terror incident, a mass murder at a Bondi shopping mall involved a white man stabbing six people, five of them women, in what police said was likely an attack targeting women.

The international order was supposed to prevent another genocide like the Holocaust of World War II, which saw six million of Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany, but with Gaza, Callamard further cautions, the planet has descended back “into a hell whose gates had been bolted closed in 1948”.

No world order

“This is why Amnesty International is concluding that the international system is on the brink of collapse right now. International law is not just violated,” Callamard continued. “People who are violating international law are justifying their violations.”

And when quizzed about what she thought of the Biden administration decrying Palestinian civilian deaths, while, at the same time, continuing to supply Israel with weapons to commit genocide, Callamard replied that it was all a “very well organised and very well scripted” ruse.

The Amnesty International secretary general posits this scenario involves one where Washington is providing full support to the state of Israel as it perpetrates the worst of all crimes, and whilst she didn’t mention us by name, the actions of Canberra over the last seven months reveal the same.

“So, the United States is providing suppo9rt to a country that is violating international law repeatedly – that is justifying those violations in the name of going after Hamas – without due respect for the proportionality and the discrimination that should accompany their actions,” Callamard added.

“By so doing, the United States is making itself complicit to some of the worst possible crimes being committed right now,” the Amnesty International boss made clear in summing up.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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