Amnesty regrets ‘distress’ caused by report on Ukrainian military, but stands by findings

The human rights watchdog published a press release last week accusing Ukrainian forces put civilians in harm’s way by establishing military bases in residential areas, including schools and hospitals, and launching attacks from densely populated areas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mock at the group’s report, claiming that they were trying to “shift responsibility” for civilian deaths in Ukraine from Russia.

The report sparked the resignation of Amnesty Ukraine’s head, Oksana Pokalchuk, who said she tried to prevent the organization from publishing the report as it emerged.

“If you don’t live in a country occupied by invaders tearing it apart, you may not understand what it’s like to condemn an ​​army of defenders,” Pokalchuk said in a statement on Facebook.

“Such important reports, published at such a time and in such a context, cannot fail to contain information about the other side of the war, about who started this war,” she said. more. “The organization created material that appears to support the Russian narrative. Seeking to protect civilians, this research has instead become a tool of Russian propaganda.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, also highlighted the report, writing that it “distorts reality, creates false moral equivalence between aggressor and victim, and promotes misinformation efforts Russian deviation.”

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Following the backlash, Amnesty said in a statement to CNN Sunday: “While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused and wish it all the best. clarified some important points.”

The watchdog reiterates that it has “documented how in all 19 towns and villages we visited, we found instances of Ukrainian forces stationed right next to where civilians live. alive, thus putting them at risk from Russian fire.”

“We base this assessment on rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the fullest extent practicable, targets military personnel in 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 abide by them,” the agency said. supervisor said.

“This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces accountable for violations by Russian forces, nor does it mean that the Ukrainian military failed to take appropriate precautions. elsewhere in the country”.

Experts not affiliated with Amnesty have found that violent action patterns of Russian forces in Ukraine meet the criteria of crimes against humanity.

“We have to be very clear: There is nothing we have documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way to justify Russian violations,” Amnesty said. “Russia alone must be held accountable for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the past six months and our many meetings and reports on violations and crimes Russia’s war crimes reflect the size and extent of their influence on civilians.”

Amnesty said it contacted the Ukrainian government on July 29 to detail the findings.

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“In our letter, we included GPS coordinates and other sensitive information about locations, including schools and hospitals, where we recorded Ukrainian forces attacking citizens. We did not make this information public in our press release due to the security risk the watchdog said would pose a threat to both Ukrainian forces and the civilians we interviewed.

Amnesty International said: “Amnesty International does not attempt to give detailed instructions to the Ukrainian military on how it operates – but we do urge the relevant authorities to fully comply. fulfill their international humanitarian obligations”. “Amnesty International’s priority will always be to ensure that civilian lives and human rights are protected during conflict.”

In his comments on Thursday, Zelensky accused Amnesty of awarding a propaganda victory to Moscow.

“We saw a completely different report today with Amnesty International,” said Zelensky.

“This is unscrupulous selection,” he added. “Anyone who forgets Russia and fakes such a disinformation context where some terrorist attacks are thought to be justified or presumed to be understandable cannot fail to understand that, when By doing so, they are helping the terrorists.”

CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq, Tim Lister and Petro Zadorozhnny contributed reporting.

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