Information & Communications Technologies for the prevention of mass atrocity crimes
What is being done to support the prevention of mass atrocity crimes as well as reconciliation, healing and justice with a particular emphasis on the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)?
As the scope for the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for peace broadens, the issues ICTs can serve to address will be considerably more complex in nature. Many countries have consistently failed to take early action to protect against, prevent or mitigate violence in cases where large numbers of civilian lives are to be in jeopardy. Examples from the past decade are the cases of Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Burundi, and there are also cases from Afghanistan, the DRC, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where towards the end of war, there was a high incidence of collateral damage and many civilian lives lost. Emerging technological innovations such as advanced satellite imagery and computer-aided analysis, advancements in forensic science combined with existing legal frameworks to bring human rights abusers to justice can be leveraged to address these atrocities. This brief report will outline how ICTs can help in preventing and mitigating genocidal violence and mass atrocity crimes, not only in the time leading up to such brutalities, but also in environments that have recently experienced such tragic violence.
Though this report will not go into it, we acutely recognise that the use of ICTs to engender genocide is the flip side of an increasing proliferation of new technologies and media. As with Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in Rwanda, media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion that can normalise violence against certain identity groups. By extension, new media, it can be argued, gives even more pervasive and persuasive tools for misinformation, disinformation, partisan propaganda and hate speech. Ultimately, the successful use of ICTs for the prevention of mass atrocity crimes rests on the courage of individuals and groups to stand up against violence, the communication of early warning indicators in a timely, comprehensive manner to key local and international authorities and the domestic and international political will required to act upon this information. There is no technocratic solution to what is, and will always be, an intensely challenging and complex process to prevent mass atrocities and also help peoples recover from such tragic violence.
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