Item 3: Interactive dialogue on the report of the Special Advisor on the impact of technological advances on prevention of genocide efforts and on the risks of the perpetration of genocide
V. Sivasankar, Shruti Lal, Reva Kulkarni
UN Geneva Researchers,
Global Human Rights Defence.
At the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, under item 3, the impact of technological advances on prevention of genocide efforts was a critical discussion between states and the Special Rapporteur Alice Wairimu Nderitu. Madam Special Rapporteur highlighted the interconnected threat of refugee crises globally to issues such as racism and discrimination using countries such as Syria, Yemen, Burkina Faso and violence from the Mediterranean against Libyan refugees as examples. Naturally, not forgetting to mention the Rwandan Genocide, the Srebrenica Genocide in the Balkans and hate against minorities in Afghanistan, she highlighted the need for peace and reconciliation, stressing that survivors cannot be at risk yet again. Stating that “Risk factors cannot be mitigated without addressing the role of extracting industries”, she urged for accelerated development and indicated assistance from her office in this area particularly in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She further urged action on particular conflicts of note including tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as ending racial profiling against African origin people in Brazil. Moreover, discussing how a failure in accountability can further the cycle of perpetration of genocide, she concluded that the “imperative to prevent genocide is hence legal and moral”.
As States began to take the floor, the European Union highlighted the issue of the spread of hate speech and discrimination through social media, requesting the Special Rapporteur for recommendations on further action. Adding to this, Luxembourg discussed how social media can be a tool that enables civil society to organise but also can be misused to spread hate and incite violence. For instance, in the Rohingya violence facebook was used as a “useful tool” for those looking to incite violence. Additionally, in a very topical context, the Ukrainian delegate highlighted the ongoing Russian aggression and importance of paying for damages done in such cases. The Russian delegation responded in their statement by discussing the growth of Neo Nazis in Eastern Europe as well as the totalitarian Ukrainian government. Claiming that hatch censorship and propoganda via the media has led to a rise in Russophobia in the region and beyond, the delegation paralleled the situation to the “alarming” ones in Poland and Czechia. Additionally, Ukraine also discussed the potential of technology to amplify risks including the incitement of hate and call for violence. In line with this, other States such as Costa Rica brought up the issue of how a digital divide can amplify discrimination both regionally and internationally. There was a call for responsibility to be held by media, tech and social media companies in terms of combatting such hate speech and online content that incites violence. As France stated that “genocide is a negation of humanity”, Israel and Germany referenced the holocaust in stating that decisive and early action is a must in ensuring that it is the responsibility of every state to stand up against genocide. In the vein of recalling past atrocities, the Rwandan delegation strongly urged for further accountability for perpetrators.
Moving to discussions on solutions, Switzerland amongst other States discussed utilising UN mechanisms including UNHRC AND UNSC resolutions while urging the international community to act to identify early warning signs. For example, Resolution 49/9 discusses how prevention must be focused through collaboration both here and in New York. The delegation from Montenegro poignantly states that the work done by mechanism such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) was “crucial in the pursuit of truth, justice and accountability”. Additionally, States like Cambodia, Denmark and Liechtenstein highlighted the importance of using mechanisms such as the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). These states along with others like Armenia also questioned the Special Rapporteur on her coordination with the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights thus asking for further information on ongoing action by the UN mechanisms.
As NGOs took their turn discussing these issues, each one focused on a country of interest demanding further action and international pressure to end discrimination. For instance, International Service for Human Rights denied that the situation of Uyghurs in China is as dire as claimed. They denounced the “insulting’ words used to smear and attack China and stated that the Shinjen region is at its best of times in development with peace and human rights guaranteed. They further claimed that a lack of action by this council on other important issues hinders its legitimacy and accountability exemplifying this by how the international community failed Rwanda in 1994. They ended their statement with the poignant demand of “let us not fail again”. Other NGOs picked up on issues such as the blocking of humanitarian aid into Myanmar, blasphemy laws in Nigeria demanding States to take these issues seriously. Moreover, Center for Global Non-Killing stated that 44 States have not yet ratified the Genocide Convention leaving a stark gap in accountability and enforcement mechanisms globally. Overall, NGOs called for stricter and quicker action in dealing with particular issues in a tailor-made fashion.
To close the session, the Special Rapporteur mentioned that she was taken aback by the innumerable questions about her office’s coordination with the High commissioner Stating that “We work the closest with them”. Moreover, answering queries and concerns about the rising and uncertain use of technology as a tool to perpetrate violence, she referenced UN Resolution 49/9 stating that a balanced approach on what needs to be done needs to be developed. She further argued that using R2P as a tangible solution is not well-rounded since the mechanism is utilised on a voluntary basis by states who choose to ratify the agreement. However, maintains her optimism, she concluded the session by stating that ratifications of such treaties are still incoming which is a positive sign. Ending with a strong statement that “We do not work retroactively”, She made it clear that all statements issued have actionable recommendations for States and other international institutions to reference and follow.