In a war, all is not white or black. Amnesty International released a report on Thursday titled Ukrainian combat tactics endanger the civilian population. It follows the work of its investigators on Russian war crimes, after the invasion of Ukraine in February. It shows that “military bases (Ukrainian) are installed in residential areas, especially in schools and hospitals” and “attacks are launched from areas inhabited by civilians”. The whereabouts of Ukrainian soldiers is not without its problems. “The resulting Russian strikes in populated areas killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure,” explains the report.
This information earned the NGO the wrath of kyiv. Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch said it was not associated with the report. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “Amnesty International’s behavior is not about seeking and revealing the truth to the world, but about creating a false equality between the criminal and the victim, between the country that is destroying hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, entire territories, and a country desperately trying to defend itself. Even President Volodymyr Zelensky intervened: according to him, this amounts to ” transfer the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.
Is the criticism fair? The report takes precautions, and notes that the investigation showed the use of prohibited weapons by the Russian army, cluster bombs. In addition, several communications from the NGO have in recent months denounced the “unlawful attacks carried out indiscriminately”, the “destruction of civil infrastructure” by the Russian army as part of its siege strategy. Previously, the NGO has documented Russian abuses in Syria, where Moscow supports the government of Bashar Al-Assad, or in the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine controlled by separatist forces close to Moscow. In addition, the NGO has never been stingy with criticism of human rights abuses within Russian borders. It’s hard to say that Amnesty puts the two camps on an equal footing.
Quite simply, “international humanitarian law provides that all parties to a conflict must avoid, as far as possible, positioning military objectives in densely populated areas or near such areas”, remember The report. According to Agnès Callamard, Secretary of Amnesty International,“being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian army from the obligation to respect international humanitarian law”.