Human language

Oksana Pokalchuk resigns as head of Amnesty International in Ukraine

A still from video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service shows a Russian Tornado-G multiple rocket launcher system firing a rocket during battles at an undisclosed location in Ukraine on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/EPA-EFE

August 5 (UPI) — Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office, has resigned from her post after a scandal over the human rights organization’s criticism of the actions of the country’s military amid its war with Russia.

Pokalchuk announced his resignation in a statement to Facebook a day after Amnesty International accused the Ukrainian military of endangering civilians by establishing military bases in schools and hospitals and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.

“If you don’t live in a country overrun by invaders and tear it apart, you probably don’t understand what it is to condemn an ​​army of defenders. And there’s no word in any language that can pass that on to someone who hasn’t felt that pain,” Pokalchuk said.

Pokalchuk said she had held meetings with Amnesty International leaders to discuss information about the war, but the text recommended by her office was “removed” and replaced with what the organization published Thursday.

“I joined Amnesty International in Ukraine almost 7 years ago because, above all, I shared the values ​​of the organization,” said Pokalchuk.

“This organization is made up of incredibly strong human rights defenders, activists who move the sun and the planets to protect human rights in the most remote corners of the world.”

She said Amnesty International has worked in Ukraine for more than 30 years, since the country gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Since the start of the large-scale aggression, we have consistently highlighted the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Russia, the aggressor country,” Pokalchuk said.

“We are thoroughly documenting these violations, and they will form the basis of many lawsuits and help bring those responsible to justice.”

Pokalchuk said she wanted to emphasize that the Ukrainian office did not want to ignore the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces, but said that Amnesty International “should have at least investigated both sides and taken into account the position of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine”.

“The principle of independence and impartiality in such work is important, after all that is precisely why international and national human rights organizations exist,” she said.

“But such important reports, which are released at such a time and in such a context, cannot fail to contain data on the other side of the war, on who started this war.”

In its statement on Thursday, Amnesty International said the tactics of the Ukrainian armed forces “violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians, as they turn civilian property into military targets”.

“We have documented a tendency for Ukrainian forces to endanger civilians and violate the laws of war when operating in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian army from respecting international humanitarian law.”