Amnesty International stands by critical report after Ukrainian director resigns

08 Aug 2022 News

Amnesty International

Amnesty International has said “we fully stand by our findings” following its report which said Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians.

A report from the organisation alleged Ukrainian forces put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas. A dispute over the report led the head of Amnesty Ukraine to resign.

Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty International Ukraine, said in a Facebook post on Friday that the report “became a tool of Russian propaganda”.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Amnesty International of an attempt “to shift blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression”. 

The orgainsation said its priority is ensuring that civilians are protected and added that “this was our sole objective when releasing this latest piece of research”.

‘We fully stand by our findings'

Amnesty International's statement said it stands by the report's findings, but “deeply regrets” the pain caused and wishes to clarify a few points. 

It said: “In our press release, we documented how in all 19 of the towns and villages we visited, we found instances where Ukrainian forces had located themselves right next to where civilians were living, thereby potentially putting them at risk from incoming Russian fire. 

“We made this assessment based on the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. The laws of war exist in part to protect civilians, and it is for this reason that Amnesty International urges governments to comply with them. 

“This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, nor that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country. 

“We must be very clear: Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations. Russia alone is responsible for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the last six months and our multiple briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect their scale and the gravity of their impact on civilians.”

An Amnesty International UK spokesperson said: “We stand firmly by our findings that the Ukrainian military have in some cases endangered Ukrainian civilians by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, while - of course - we’ve also spent months documenting numerous indiscriminate attacks and likely war crimes by Russian forces during their illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“These findings are similar to earlier ones by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and by other human rights organisations.

“We will not be commenting on specific statements from other parts of Amnesty International, but it’s important to note that this research was conducted in exactly the same way as all of our human rights research - with extensive due diligence, internal discussion and rigorous fact-checking.”

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