5 questions about the Amnesty International report that provoked the ire of Ukraine

5 questions about the Amnesty International report that provoked the ire of Ukraine

The publication of Amnesty International’s report on the war in Ukraine on Thursday, August 4, continues to stir up excitement and anger around the world. “Anger” and “pain” that the human rights organization said it regretted this Sunday, August 7, while maintaining its conclusions. Blaming the Ukrainian armed forces for endangering civilians in the conflict with Russia, the investigation angered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accused the NGO of “trying to amnesty the terrorist state”. The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine Oksana Pokalchuk resigned from the NGO, believing that the report had unwittingly served “Russian propaganda”. What does the report contain? What were the reactions in Ukraine? And in France? Challenges returns in five questions to the international agitation around this case.

1. What is in the Amnesty International report?

In its report published on Thursday 4 August, Amnesty International accuses the Ukrainian army of putting civilians at risk by setting up military bases in schools and hospitals and launching attacks from populated areas to repel the Russian invasion. However, such tactics violate international humanitarian law, the NGO warns in a statement. “We have documented a tendency of Ukrainian forces to endanger civilians and violate the laws of war when operating in populated areas”” said Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

The report was published after a four-month investigation, between April and July. Researchers from the human rights organization studied the Russian strikes in the Kharkiv (east), Donbass and Mykolaiv (south-east) regions and inspected the sites affected by strikes. Conclusion? Ukrainian forces are launching strikes from populated residential areas and have established bases in civilian buildings (including schools and hospitals) in 19 towns and villages in these regions, the NGO estimates. Most of these areas were located miles from the front lines, according to Amnesty. The NGO nevertheless insists that they do not “justify in any way the indiscriminate Russian attacks” that have hit civilian populations. She also says she contacted the Ukrainian Defense Ministry at the end of July about her findings. A request that remained “unanswered” at the time of publication.

2. Foreign Minister, President… What were the reactions in Ukraine?

The report immediately provoked a shower of indignant reactions in Ukraine. The adviser to the Ukrainian presidency Mykhailo Podoliak first hammered on Twitter that “people’s lives” were “the priority” and that the populations of cities near the front were evacuated. “It is a shame that an organization like Amnesty is participating in this disinformation and propaganda campaign,” he said.

Shortly after, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kuleba also said he was “outraged“ by Amnesty International’s ”unfair” accusations. “I (the report, EDITOR’S NOTE) considers it unfair”” the Foreign Minister lashed out in a video comment posted on Facebook. He accused Amnesty International of “creating a false balance between the oppressor and the victim, between the country that is destroying hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories, and the country that is desperately defending itself”.

On the same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the NGO of “trying to amnesty the terrorist state” from Russia and “transferring responsibility from the aggressor to the victim” in a video statement. “The aggression against our state is unjustified, invasive and terrorist. If someone writes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are, in a certain way, put on an equal footing, if certain data about the victim are analyzed and the actions of the aggressor are ignored, this cannot be tolerated,” he stressed.

3. Why Has Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of Amnesty in Ukraine, resigned?

On the night of Friday to Saturday, August 6, almost two days after the publication of the report, the head of Amnesty International in Ukraine announced her resignation. “If you don’t live in a country invaded by occupiers who are fragmenting it, you probably don’t understand what it is to condemn an army of defenders,” she assured in a statement published on her Facebook account. The head of the NGO in Ukraine said that she tried to convince Amnesty’s management that the report was partial and did not take into account the point of view of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. As for the fact that Amnesty claimed to have contacted the officials of the Ministry of Defense on July 29 without getting a response, Oksana Pokalchuk believes that Amnesty gave the ministry “very little time“ ”for a response”. “As a result, the organization published a report that involuntarily seemed to support the Russian version. Striving to protect civilians, this report has become a tool of Russian propaganda”” she regretted.

3. In France, the historian Michel Goya and Bernard-Henri Lévy are stepping up to the plate. What have been the reactions in France?

The philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy was one of the first to react, drawing a parallel with the French internal resistance during the second world war. “Accusing Ukraine of operating from civilian areas” amounts to “blaming the French resistance fighters for fighting in the streets of Paris in August 1944,” he blasted the writer and director of the film “Why Ukraine” on his Twitter account. He added“ “Mixture of stupidity and cynicism. Send back to back aggressors and aggressees. Playing Putin’s game. That’s where we are. Foul”.

The war historian and colonel in the army now retired from active service Michel Goya was more nuanced, explaining his thought process in a tFrance-10475769.php” target=”_blank”>hread Twitter. Asked hotly on BFMTV about the report, he was initially cautious. “I replied that my little experience had shown me that the enemies of bastards were not necessarily the saints.”, he says.

It was only in the second stage that he criticized the report, having studied it in detail. He specifies in particular that “it is not very clear what the object of the investigation was” and that no exaction (”executions, rape, theft”) of the troops vis-à-vis the population is, at any time, mentioned in the report. The historian points out that the investigation can, paradoxically, “serve to clear the Ukrainian army of the accusation of taking the population hostage since it is never mentioned after three months of investigation”. Finally, he encourages Amnesty to carry out “the same investigation in the areas held by the Russians and the separatists, including on possible indiscriminate Ukrainian strikes”.

5. How how has Amnesty International reacted to this international outrage?

On Sunday, August 7, Amnesty International said it regretted the “anger” triggered by the report, while maintaining its conclusions. “Amnesty International deeply regrets the disarray and anger that our press release on combat tactics in the Ukrainian army caused,” the NGO said. She recalls that her priority “in this conflict, as in any other, is to ensure that civilians are protected”. “This was our only objective when we published this latest research report”, Amnesty continues, “if we fully stand by our conclusions, we regret the pain caused”.


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