After triggering consternation with its recent report in which, among other things, it has accused the Ukrainian armed forces of endangering civilians and violating international humanitarian law, Amnesty International has issued an apology without disavowing its findings.
According to the report published on Thursday, Ukrainian forces had violated international humanitarian law by basing themselves in civilian buildings and launching attacks from residential areas.
Amnesty observers insisted they had sighted Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of residential areas in at least 19 towns and villages and noted that by positioning its forces in such a manner, they endangered the civilian populations subjecting them to the danger of incoming Russian fire.
The report caused backlash almost immediately, prompting the head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine arm to resign on Friday after dubbing it a Russian propaganda tool, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Amnesty of attempting to shift blame from the aggressor to the victim of the aggression and to grant amnesty to the terrorist state.
The international human rights group explained in a letter to Reuters that the sole objective of the report was to ensure that civilians are protected, stressing that it fully stands by its findings though it deeply regrets the distress and anger it caused on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics.
Addressing the criticisms, Amnesty International stressed that documenting what Ukrainian forces are doing in no way justifies Russian violations or holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russians nor that the Ukrainian troops are not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country.
However, Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnes Callamard also emphasized that being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.
While lambasting Russian forces, Amnesty also took aim at the Ukrainian military for displaying a troubling pattern of putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war by operating from residential infrastructure, including schools.
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