Amnesty International Apologizes After Releasing Report Criticizing Ukraine's Use of Human Shields

Chris Menahan
Aug. 08, 2022

Amnesty International on Sunday apologized for the "distress and anger" they caused by releasing a report criticizing Ukrainian forces' use of human shields.

The report detailed how Ukrainian forces were occupying populated residential areas and using them to launch attacks.

"Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm's way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February," Amnesty stated in a press released on Thursday.

"Such tactics violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians, as they turn civilian objects into military targets. The ensuing Russian strikes in populated areas have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure," Amnesty's report continued. "Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were kilometres away from front lines. Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians – such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas."

"Survivors and witnesses of Russian strikes in the Donbas, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions told Amnesty International researchers that the Ukrainian military had been operating near their homes around the time of the strikes, exposing the areas to retaliatory fire from Russian forces. Amnesty International researchers witnessed such conduct in numerous locations," Amnesty reported.

"International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives and giving effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population."

Amnesty's report was quickly condemned by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who said the publication "cannot be tolerated."

Zelensky suggested Amnesty supports terrorism and said the publication shared in "the responsibility for the death of people."

"Anyone who amnesties Russia and who artificially creates such an informational context that some attacks by terrorists are supposedly justified or supposedly understandable, cannot but realize that it helps the terrorists," Zelensky said in a nightly video address last week. "If you provide manipulative reports, then you share the responsibility for the death of people with them."

On Sunday, Amnesty apologized for the "pain caused" by their report and double-underlined their support for Ukraine but said they still "fully stand by our findings."

From Amnesty International, "Statement on publication of press release on Ukrainian fighting tactics":
Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused. Since Russian’s invasion began in February 2022, Amnesty International has been rigorously documenting and reporting on war crimes and violations committed in Ukraine, speaking to hundreds of victims and survivors whose stories illuminate the brutal reality of Russia’s war of aggression. We have challenged the world to demonstrate its solidarity with Ukrainians through concrete action, and we will continue to do so.

Amnesty International’s priority in this and in any conflict is ensuring that civilians are protected; indeed, this was our sole objective when releasing this latest piece of research. While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused and wish to clarify a few crucial points.

In our press release, we documented how in all 19 of the towns and villages we visited, we found instances where Ukrainian forces had located themselves right next to where civilians were living, thereby potentially putting them at risk from incoming Russian fire. We made this assessment based on the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. The laws of war exist in part to protect civilians, and it is for this reason that Amnesty International urges governments to comply with them.

This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, nor that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country.

We must be very clear: Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations. Russia alone is responsible for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the last six months and our multiple briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect their scale and the gravity of their impact on civilians.

Amnesty International wrote to the Ukrainian government detailing our findings on 29 July. In our letter, we included GPS coordinates and other sensitive information about the locations, including schools and hospitals, where we had documented Ukrainian forces basing themselves among civilians. We did not make this information public in our press release due to the security risks it would pose to both Ukrainian forces and to the civilians we interviewed.

Amnesty International is not attempting to give the Ukrainian military detailed instructions regarding how they should operate – but we call on the relevant authorities to abide by their international humanitarian obligations in full.

Amnesty International’s priority will always be ensuring that civilians’ lives and human rights are protected during conflict.
None of what they reported was groundbreaking. If anything, it was a cover-up because they refused to use the term human shields.

Another report from the UN released last month, which was far more damning, found that Ukrainian forces took over a nursing home and used its residents as human shields, then accused Russia of committing war crimes when they attacked their military outpost.

When Zelensky was asked in April by Fox News' Bret Baier about reports of Azov Battalion forces committing atrocities, he appeared to brush them off by saying, "They are what they are, they were defending our country."

Fox News edited Zelensky's disturbing comments out of their interview when they uploaded it to YouTube and

As I reported earlier this morning, CBS News on Sunday night pulled their own bombshell documentary "Arming Ukraine" which exposed how only 30% at most of the tens of billions of dollars worth of US weapons aid sent to Ukraine is making it to the front lines.

They claimed the assessment was dated and the documentary would be "updated" and aired at a later date.

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