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

The human rights watchdog published a press release accusing the Ukrainian military last week Putting civilians in harm’s way By setting up military bases in residential areas including schools and hospitals and launching attacks from populated civilian areas.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky whipped out In the group’s report, it argued that there was an attempt to “shift responsibility” for the deaths of civilians in Ukraine. Russia.

The report sparked the resignation of Amnesty’s head in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, who said she had tried to dissuade the organization from publishing the report.

“If you don’t live in a country occupied by invaders and tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to protest an army of defenders,” Pokalchuk said in a statement on Facebook.

“Such an important report, which is published at such a moment and in such a context, cannot fail to inform about the other side of the war, the one that started this war,” she added. “The agency produced material that sounded like support for Russian narratives. In order to protect civilians, this research instead became a tool for Russian propaganda.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, also criticized the report, tweeting that it “distorts reality, draws a false moral equivalence between aggressors and victims, and fuels Russia’s disinformation efforts.”

Following the backlash, Amnesty said in a statement to CNN on Sunday: “While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain we have caused and would like to clarify some important points.”

The watchdog reiterated how it “documented how in all 19 cities and towns we visited, we found instances where Ukrainian forces were stationed next to where civilians lived, potentially exposing them to incoming Russian fire.”

“We base this assessment on the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating military objectives in or near densely populated areas. The laws of war exist in part to protect civilians, and for this reason Amnesty International urges governments to comply with them. urges,” the watchdog said.

“This does not mean that Amnesty International holds the Ukrainian military responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, or that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country,” it said.

Experts not affiliated with Amnesty have found that Patterns of violent acts committed by the Russian military Qualifying for crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

“We must be very clear: there is nothing we have documented to suggest that the Ukrainian military has in any way supported Russian violations,” Amnesty said. “Russia alone bears responsibility for violations against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the past six months and our many briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect their scale and the seriousness of their impact on civilians.”

Amnesty said it informed the Ukrainian government of the findings on July 29.

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“In our letter, we included GPS coordinates and other sensitive information about locations, including schools and hospitals, where we documented Ukrainian forces planting themselves among civilians. We did not make this information public in our press release due to security risks. Ukrainian forces and civilians we interviewed It will stand up to both of them,” the watchdog said.

“Amnesty International does not seek to give detailed instructions to the Ukrainian military on how they should act — but we call on the relevant authorities to fully comply with their international humanitarian obligations,” Amnesty said. “Protecting civilian lives and human rights during conflict will always be Amnesty International’s priority.”

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

“We saw today a completely different report from Amnesty International that, unfortunately, tries to condone the terrorist state and shifts the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim,” Zelensky said.

“It’s such an unethical choice,” he added. “Anyone who grants amnesty to Russia and who artificially creates an informed context in which certain attacks by terrorists are allegedly justified or understandable cannot fail to realize that in doing so they are aiding and abetting terrorists.”

CNN’s Mohammad Tawfiq, Tim Lister and Petro Zadorozny contributed to reporting.

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