The former executive director of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office, Oksana Pokalchuk, resigned the day after the organization’s leadership blundered by releasing a negative report about the Ukrainian army on Aug. 4. She has since said that many of her colleagues followed her in walking out.
Pokalchuk, an attorney and human rights activist, describes her concerns with Amnesty’s report in an Aug. 13 opinion piece for the Washington Post.
Amnesty’s contentious report accused the Ukrainian army of breaching international humanitarian law by placing military forces in residential areas and unnecessarily exposing civilian infrastructure to Russian aggression. Its accusations have stirred up public outrage worldwide, which have been covered extensively by the Kyiv Post in various articles and opposite editorials. These include assertions that the report was not only patently false, but manipulative, biased and lacking logic.
According to Pokalchuk, the report caused “long-lasting damage” to the organization’s reputation in Ukraine and arrogantly side-stepped the important work of its local offices. Furthermore, the former director decried that the report ignored the important input of local offices and neglected to allow the Ukrainian military an appropriate opportunity to respond to Amnesty’s accusations.
Pokalchuk felt that “the report’s deepest flaw was how it contradicted its main objective: Far from protecting civilians, it further endangered them by giving Russia a justification to continue its indiscriminate attacks.”
Added to that, the former director said: “Russian forces are seeking to occupy towns and cities in Ukraine, and Ukraine’s armed forces are trying to prevent that. Given the widely publicized accounts of Russian atrocities against civilians in Bucha and Irpin, it is not immediately evident that by withdrawing from populated areas, the Ukrainian military would have achieved the maximum possible protection of civilians.”
Pokalchuk clarified the process that Amnesty should have taken, such as allowing “the right of response” by Ukraine’s defense ministry, allowing sufficient time for that response, and further advocacy with the ministry if any evidence of compliance breaches had been found.
After seven years of work with Amnesty, Pokalchuk contends that the Ukraine army has a strong record of compliance with its legal obligations and should have been consulted about the allegations being put forward by Amnesty.
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