In a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk today, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty urged the Ukrainian government to stop abuses and war crimes by volunteer battalions operating alongside regular Ukrainian armed forces.
“The Ukrainian authorities must not replicate the lawlessness and abuses that have prevailed in areas previously held by separatists,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General from Kyiv.
“The failure to stop abuses and possible war crimes by volunteer battalions risks significantly aggravating tensions in the east of the country and undermining the proclaimed intentions of the new Ukrainian authorities to strengthen and uphold the rule of law more broadly.”
The call came as Amnesty International published fresh research collected on the ground in the northern Luhansk region, Abuses and war crimes by the Aidar Volunteer Battalion in the north Luhansk region, documenting a growing range of abuses by the Aidar Volunteer battalion.
Aidar is one of more than thirty so-called volunteer battalions to have emerged in the wake of the conflict which have been loosely integrated into Ukrainian security structures as they seek to retake separatist held areas.
Amnesty International has documented a growing spate of abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, robbery, extortion, and possible executions committed by the Aidar battalion. Some of these amount to war crimes.
The organization is calling on the Ukrainian authorities to bring all volunteer battalions, including Aidar, under effective lines of command and control, to promptly investigate all allegations of abuses and to hold those responsible to account.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister expressed the government’s commitment to bringing all perpetrators of conflict related abuses to account.
“Amnesty International welcomes the Ukrainian government’s commitment to restore and ensure justice in the conflict affected areas. We will hold them to this promise,” said Salil Shetty.