Kyiv, October 20, 2014. The Amnesty International mission in Ukraine has uncovered evidence of extrajudicial executions of civilians in eastern Ukraine. This was stated by Tetyana Mazur, Chief of Amnesty International in Ukraine, and Bohdan Ovcharuk, a member of the investigative team during their press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. At the moment, the international human rights organization has confirmed a handful of examples of summary executions. However, Amnesty International denies reports that mass graves were discovered by separatist forces.
“We received confirmation of extrajudicial executions in eastern Ukraine,” stated Ovcharuk. There is evidence of such executions in territory presently controlled by both Ukrainian and separatist forces. Amnesty International is not in the position to definitely assign blame to either party to the conflict for these crimes. An investigative mission collected evidence from civilians, combatants, and journalists. In doing so, the organization has uncovered abuses and war crimes. Amnesty International noted that pro-Ukrainian activists in separatist-controlled territory live in fear of speaking out, and are forced to avoid treatment in medical centers for injuries received in custody.
Despite reports in Russian media, there is no evidence of mass graves in the territory adjacent to the separatist controlled city of Makeevka. Four graves have been discovered, however, and based on the information gathered, some evidence indicates that the Dnipro-1 battalion may have been involved. “We have discovered evidence of some extrajudicial killings which could be considered war crimes,” said Mazur. One of the bodies discovered belongs to a local pro-Russian activist, and the others are believed to be civilians. “There is an atmosphere of fear” in the conflict zone, stated Mazur.
The Amnesty International team emphasized that both Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces have to follow the laws of war and human rights law, and must take the necessary precautions to prevent harm to the civilian population. The Ukrainian government must inform military personnel and volunteer battalions of their human rights obligations under both Ukrainian and international law. Kyiv must also ensure that crimes committed in eastern Ukraine are investigated swiftly and fairly, and the Ukrainian parliament must pass legislation to ensure human rights protections. “The authorities of Ukraine need to ensure that the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine has the power to conduct investigations of illegal detention, torture, killings irrespective of who is the source of the crimes,” Mazur said.
Amnesty International understands that the conflict occurred suddenly, and considers the Russian Federation as a party to the conflict. However, the organization hopes that the Ukraine will take suggestions seriously, and work to safeguard the rights of civilians and abide by international convention.