People are baffled by Amnesty’s report into civilian deaths in Ukraine

Ukrainian military vehicles
Support us and go ad-free

Amnesty International’s latest report on the Ukraine war has people baffled. The study contains details of how military equipment and troops were placed in built-up areas, leading to the endangerment and killing of civilians. The issue is that this was not by Russian forces, but by the Ukrainian military .

The reaction from supporters of Ukraine on social media have ranged from confusion to outright anger. They echo the response by supporters of Israel to criticism over the treatment of Palestinians. But, they say something much more profound too.

For many people war can be reduced to a sort of spectator sport, or a Hollywood narrative, in which there are good guys beyond reproach and bad guys who can only do evil. This is war through the eyes of the uninitiated.

Urban areas

Amnesty found that Ukrainian troops had been placed in urban zones, despite workable alternatives being available. This led to various incidents of civilian harm, including deaths.

Amnesty lists a number of examples and adds:

In the cases it documented, Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military who located themselves in civilian structures in residential areas asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings – a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.

This seems pretty clear. Yet Amnesty’s new publication was greeted with an immediate backlash. In spite of what looks like some fairly straightforward reporting, some branded Amnesty International a “joke”:

Read on...

Other even suggested it was somehow Russian propaganda:

The NGO was also accused of victim blaming over the report:

Civilian harm

Yet the outrage did not reflect the content of the work. Which explained at some length the extent of Russian atrocities. For example, the authors wrote:

Many of the Russian strikes that Amnesty International documented in recent months were carried out with inherently indiscriminate weapons, including internationally banned cluster munitions, or with other explosive weapons with wide area effects. Others used guided weapons with varying levels of accuracy; in some cases, the weapons were precise enough to target specific objects.

They added:

The Ukrainian military’s practice of locating military objectives within populated areas does not in any way justify indiscriminate Russian attacks.

Amnesty correctly pointed out that “all parties” must “at all times”:

..distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects and take all feasible precautions, including in choice of weapons, to minimize civilian harm. Indiscriminate attacks which kill or injure civilians or damage civilian objects are war crimes.

Hardly the stuff of Russian propaganda. Unless you have an agenda of your own to market.

Parallels

The outrage echoes another ongoing war. The one conducted by the state of Israel on the Palestinian people. In February 2022, Amnesty published a report on Israel’s apartheid regime. The NGO called it a “cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity”.

This position attracted backlash against Amnesty. The media largely “both-sidesed” the findings, as The Canary reported at the time. And the Ukraine report has quickly been used by supporters of Israel to attack Amnesty over its earlier findings on Israeli apartheid:

There were efforts to conflate the plight of Ukraine – a country which was actually invaded – with Israel, a country built through invading and colonising:

The narrative being pushed is of a once-serious human rights group which has succumbed to sinister anti-Israel and anti-Ukraine forces:

War fantasies

Clearly some of the attacks are in bad faith. But a fanciful notion appears to underpin some of the response. That in war there are normally objectively good and bad sides, which the good side incapable of wrongdoing. This is not a view borne out by reality. In war, people are killed and property is destroyed by all sides, whatever their motivation. The fundamental anti-war position is that war, in and of itself, is terrible. And this is regardless of whether it is justified, which it may be in some cases.

It does not diminish the Ukrainian right to resist Russian invasion, or let Russia off the hook, to say that there must be care and accountability when it comes to civilian lives. Precisely as it is laid out in the Geneva Conventions and other laws pertaining to armed conflict.

Yet these widely known and well established rules seem to have been ignored in favour of a partisan approach. War is not sport, nor is it a blockbuster Hollywood plot line. And it should be in the interest of all parties that it is ended as soon as possible.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Unknown author, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0.

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. USA has been trying to get a piece of all of Russia since 1918 when they first went to war against the Bolsheviks during their revolution. When American military left Russia American president and leaders then sent in provocateurs and saboteurs and paying the peasants for their vandalism and terrorism. After WW2 CIA put Nazi SS on payroll to spy on Russia and continue the sabotage. President Truman and pentagon also spent 4 years developing a plant to attack Russia for it’s wealth and resources and they planned on dropping 300 atomic bombs on USSR killing over 250+ million Eastern Europeans. That was OK with Truman. It was called Dropshot plan. Thankfully Stalin developed Atomic bomb and Kennedy became President and wanted to work for peace. That didn’t work to well for him. CIA has been in Ukraine since at least 2004 starting their Psyops operations fomenting uprisings, sabotage, and of course eventually training military in torture and terrorism methods to control populations just as they have done throughout South and Central America since the 1920’s. After CIA has trained these men in torture and terrorism they will be almost impossible to contain.

        1. Aireline and I have noticed that no one is ever banned on pro government sites. All sites have a moderation policy it is even now done internationally. Funny how no one can access RT anymore but that is NOT a ban that is just saving our innocent ears from harmful propaganda dont you agree?

          1. What I have found to my surprise is that certain left sites – I’m looking at you WSWS, Naked Capitalism, Consortium News, Common Dreams and others – have party lines that cannot be crossed in the comment sections on pain of a lifetime ban.The Right taunts the Left as using ‘cancel culture’ against anyone it doesn’t agree with. These sites seem to be doing so.

            1. The last comment is confusing but I suspect you may have failed to appreciate what I thought was obvious sarcasm.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.