Statement from Amnesty International Australia

Amnesty International Australia apologises for the pain and anger caused by the publication of an extended press release on August 4 2022 regarding the actions of the Ukrainian resistance to Russian invasion.

We recognise that we should have set out framing and contextualization of the press release in more detail, including referring to the multiple violations and war crimes by the Russian military as part of the invasion of Ukraine, all of which we have thoroughly documented over the last six months and we continue to do. This prevented us from achieving the human rights impact we had hoped for.

There may also have been issues with our legal analysis, as some critics have suggested. We further acknowledge, with much regret, that the process of preparing the report left some of our colleagues feeling that they were not consulted, were not sufficiently prepared or were not heard. We will learn and are committed to do better in the future.

We actively encouraged the International Board of Amnesty International to promptly conduct an independent review of the process that led to the extended press release, including an independent legal review panel. The International Board has agreed.

We have also met with the Australian Ukrainian community and we have listened to and conveyed their concerns to our international colleagues. We continue to be in contact and it is very clear to us that the Ukrainian community wants to see accountability for these errors – a principle central to human rights – and a principle Amnesty International Australia strongly supports.

Our common mission at Amnesty is to protect and defend human rights, and this extended press release compromised our ability to do this.

Amnesty International Australia has joined with other sections to ask the International Board and the International Secretariat to initiate a thorough review of procedures for the preparation and publication of reports and communications, in order to strengthen cooperation so that the the results of a united voice are better and more effective to protect human rights.

We must understand what went wrong and why and must capture those lessons to inform our work ahead. The Review will focus on the process and decisions in the lead up to publication of the release, including the research undertaken, process of preparing press release, the legal and policy analysis, the timing of its launch. We will also review the power and other underlying organisational cultural dynamics. In summary what lessons should be learned to achieve greater human rights impact. The Review will be initiated within the next two weeks.

Protection of civilians has always been and will continue to be our primary concern. That is why, from very early in the conflict, we named and denounced Russia’s aggression against the people of Ukraine as an international crime, and in the past six months, Amnesty has published more than a dozen briefings and reports detailing those violations and war crimes. We condemn Russia’s use of the press release to justify its illegal aggression. Since the start of the invasion in February, Amnesty International has categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an unjustified act of aggression and a grave violation of international law.

We express our solidarity to our Amnesty Ukraine colleagues, human rights defenders, and civilians who remain at grave risk in Ukraine.