A woman killed during an artillery shelling of the Donetsk railway station (Image from mid.ru)
[…] Is there any basis to Amnesty International’s equal treatment and equal blame against both sides? No there is not.
Firstly, Amnesty produces no numbers to back its equivalency treatment. It says these are difficult to ascertain. This may be true for arriving at very specific numbers. But given the volume of media and human rights reports documenting human rights violations and war crimes by Kyiv, and considering that the Ukrainian government controls more than 95 per cent of the territory of the country, it is a stretch, to say the least, to make an equivalency argument.
Secondly, the Amnesty report excludes reporting on the multiple documented cases of human rights atrocities throughout Ukraine, for example the massacre in Odessa on May 2, 2014 that saw more than 50 people killed by right-wing vigilantes. It makes no mention of the economic embargo and routine interruption of aid shipments imposed by Kyiv against the rebel territory, including cutting the pensions of seniors. Instead, the report selectively chooses the band of territory proximate to the actual combat zone in the southeast of Ukraine. As if documented human rights violations by the Ukraine government elsewhere in the country would have no bearing on its conduct in the war zone, a war zone, moreover, that Kyiv has created. As if the recent string of killings of journalists and politicians in Kyiv and other cities of the country are incidental.
The Amnesty report shows extreme bias against the rebel forces in Donetsk and Lugansk by its selective language. It calls them “separatists”, “the separatist side”, or “the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic… and Luhansk People’s Republic”.
The term “separatist” is a pejorative, used to discredit those so labelled. Considering the changes to Ukrainian law in the past year which have made the advocacy of “separatism” in Ukraine a grave criminal act, not to speak of an invitation to vigilante violence and murder against anyone so accused, it is inconceivable that a human rights organization would so carelessly use the term.
Two additional reasons make Amnesty International’s use of the term a scandal. One, there is the small matter that it is not true. The leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics as well as the advocates for political rights throughout eastern Ukraine have made it clear that they are receptive to any and all political options for the Donbas territory. The leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk signed the ceasefire agreement in Minsk, Belarus to this effect on February 12, 2015. Unfortunately, the Kyiv regime refuses to adhere to the clauses in that document, including the one that obliges it to negotiate forms of political autonomy (‘federalization’) with the rebel movement (a fact which the report by Amnesty omits mentioning).
Two, Amnesty International as well as the supporters of the governing regime in Kyiv throw around the term “separatist” (by which we can understand “political self-determination” or “secession”) as if it were some high crime. It is not. It is enshrined in international law. Many of the major countries of the NATO military alliance presently supporting Kyiv in its war have had perfectly legal “separatism” votes take place in their territories, including in Quebec, Canada in 1976 and 1995 and in Scotland, United Kingdom in 2015. Irony of ironies, modern, independent Ukraine itself was born of two “separatist” acts which made the country independent—the revolution of 1917-18 and the vote in 1991 to discontinue the Soviet Union.
While Amnesty has harsh language for the “separatists” of Donetsk and Lugansk, the extremist militias who are fighting alongside the regular Ukrainian army and committing no end of human rights atrocities are given kid-glove treatment. The Amnesty report calls the extreme-right militias that are waging cruel war in eastern Ukraine “volunteer militia formations”. This is the same, polite language used by Western media to minimize and obfuscate exactly who it is, exactly, the NATO countries are backing in Ukraine, including with weapons and military training. (In recent months, the extremist paramilitaries have been incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard in order to lessen embarrassment to their NATO country benefactors.) […]
Read in full Amnesty International Ukraine War Crimes Report Fails the Test at Counterpunch