#Amnesty #outcry #Ukraine #report
Human rights group Amnesty International has remained defiant under its high-profile secretary-general, despite a growing outcry over a report critics say supported Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
Their Aug. 4 press release, which accused Ukraine of endangering civilians by establishing army bases in residential areas, sparked one of the most explosive controversies for a major rights group in recent years.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, backed by a chorus of Ukrainian officials, lashed out at Amnesty, saying it was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.”
But the issue has also created tensions within the respected organization founded in 1961, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and now has offices in over 70 countries.
Ukraine office head Oksana Pokalchuk resigned, saying her team was not properly consulted over a report “that sounded like support for Russian narratives”.
The controversy represents the biggest crisis yet for Amnesty under its Secretary-General Agnes Callamard, a battle-hardened French legal expert who was a high-profile choice to head the London-based organization after serving as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.
In that capacity, she led the international investigation into the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, and produced a report that pointed the finger at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility.
Shortly after taking office, she took decisive action to reverse Amnesty’s decision to strip Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of “political prisoner” status for past nationalist statements.
– “shredding his credibility” –
Following the release of the Ukraine report, Callamard slammed the “social media mobs and trolls” attacking the organization’s research, promising it would “not compromise our impartiality.”
She told AFP in an email on Friday that Amnesty “strongly stands by the report,” which is subject to “the same strict standards” as all Amnesty publications.
In a statement on Sunday, Amnesty said it deeply regrets the “dismay and anger” provoked by the press release, while reiterating that “we fully stand by our findings”.
Their statement, the organization said, documented how in all 19 towns and villages visited by their researchers, there were instances where “Ukrainian armed forces were right next to civilian homes.”
The assessment is based on the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), Amnesty said, noting the numerous reports it had published over the past month accusing Russia of violations and war crimes in Ukraine.
But their defense has done nothing to dampen the humiliation lavished on the organization both in Ukraine and abroad.
The Times of London wrote in an editorial that Amnesty “shatters its credibility by serving as a megaphone for the propaganda of the Putin regime” with a report that “ignores the realities of military operations”.
“Amnesty is now completely morally bankrupt – its anti-Western obsession has driven it into the gutter,” added the right-wing Daily Telegraph.
– ‘Little to none’ –
Meanwhile, the report found an enthusiastic readership at the Russian Embassy in London, usually not Amnesty fans, who tweeted that the report’s findings “confirmed exactly what Russia has been saying all along.”
But in an article for the Ukrainska Pravda website, British human rights lawyer Wayne Jordash and Ukrainian lawyer Anna Mykytenko accused Amnesty of using “unclear” methods and taking “little to no” account of the military or humanitarian context.
“The conclusions are short on facts and analysis and long on outrageous accusations,” they wrote.
Amnesty has insisted it contacted the Ukrainian government several days before the report was released, sharing GPS coordinates and other sensitive information it withheld from the press release to protect civilians at the scene.
Among Putin’s opponents, one of Navalny’s allies, Ivan Zhdanov, simply condemned the report as “a typical example of ‘useful idiots'”.
The harshest criticism came from Pokalchuk, who said that instead of “protecting civilians, the report has instead become a tool of Russian propaganda.”
Thursday’s publication was rejected by Amnesty’s Ukraine team, who refused to translate it or upload it to their website.
“Unless you live in a country occupied by occupiers tearing it apart, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders,” Pokalchuk said.
#Amnesty #outcry #Ukraine #report