Head of Ukraine's Amnesty office leaves after group accuses Kyiv

The rights report listed incidents in which Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By AFP

Published: Sat 6 Aug 2022, 1:43 PM

Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of Amnesty International's Ukraine office has resigned.

Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine, when it released a report on Thursday accusing the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.

"There are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not experienced this pain", she explained.

Pokalchuk said that she had tried to warn Amnesty's senior leadership about the report being one-sided, and failing to take into account the position of Ukraine's Defence Ministry, but she was ignored.

"As a result, the organisation unintentionally put out a statement that sounded like support for Russian narratives." she claimed.

Amnesty listed incidents in which Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.

"We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas," Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard said.

"Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law," he added.

Ukraine's government pushed back hard, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba branding the allegations "unfair", and Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov calling the report a "perversion".

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the rights group had tried to "amnesty the terrorist state, and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim".

"If someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are supposedly equal in some way, if some data about the victim is analysed, and the aggressor's actions at the same time is ignored, then this cannot be tolerated," he concluded.

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