Since the onset of the war, Amnesty International has investigated, researched, and raised public awareness of the Russian government’s war crimes and other violations of both international human rights and humanitarian law. All of our publications on the conflict including reports, press releases, and news updates can be found here and at this landing page. Relatedly, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) maintains a periodically updated and verified list of attacks by Russian forces, including those which may constitute war crimes. We continue to call for Russian political and military authorities to be held to account for their actions which have brought untold suffering upon the Ukrainian people.
The international community must support the ongoing International Criminal Court’s investigation in the country, provide comprehensive mechanisms to protect civilians, including refugees and migrants, promote robust accountability measures in line with the U.N.’s global frameworks and standards, and demand the Russian government immediately end its acts of aggression.
This issue brief provides a synopsis of how the Russian government’s armed hostilities have negatively impacted civilians and describes steps Amnesty International is actively taking to protect Ukrainians’ fundamental human rights.
The Russian government launched its war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, ushering in a tumultuous year characterized by war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ukrainians have suffered unimaginable horror as a result of Russian security forces indiscriminately targeting urban, densely populated areas, destroying civilian infrastructure such as residences, hospitals, and schools, and committing atrocities in places like Bucha where extrajudicial executions and sexual violence has occurred.
As a result of such human rights abuses, more than 14 million people fled the country in pursuit of safer living conditions: over eight million Ukrainian refugees across Europe are registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and over four million refugees are registered for temporary protection across the region.
Ukrainians not only face severe human rights abuses in the form of direct violence, but also experience extreme hardship caused by attacks on critical infrastructure, a strategy designed to maximize human suffering. Amnesty International’s researchers spoke to civilians who described enduring winter conditions without heat, electricity, or running water, a situation that has prevented them from accessing food supplies, medical care, or educational resources for children and young adults.
The Russian authorities have also violated international humanitarian law through unlawful deportation of civilians to Russia and transfer to Russian occupied areas. Children have been deliberately separated from their families and adults have been subject to arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment. For our report, “Like a Prison Convoy”: Russia’s Unlawful Transfer of Civilians in Ukraine and Abuses During ‘Filtration,’ Amnesty researchers interviewed 88 individuals from the Kharkiv, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. They found that children were stopped at Russian military checkpoints and were transferred into forced custody in Donetsk, a territory of Ukraine occupied and illegally annexed by the Russian Federation. Older people and individuals with disabilities were also pressured to obtain Russian citizenship, an attempt to erase the existence of their Ukrainian identity and heritage. The forcible transfer or deportation of civilians against their will may amount to a crime against humanity.
ACTIONS TO TAKE
AIUSA is responding to this complex humanitarian crisis with further research, policy advocacy, and grassroots activism:
- AIUSA published a report ‘I Used to Have a Home’: Older People’s Experience of War, Displacement, and Access to Housing in Ukraine, which documents the unique human rights violations older individuals experience, especially when they cannot flee conflict- impacted areas. Our Europe Advocacy team is organizing a policy briefing on Capitol Hill which focuses on this topic that will take place in March.
- Our Press Relations and Communications team is collaborating with leading media outlets to disseminate our research for broader public audiences.
- From March 3-5, AIUSA will host our Annual General Meeting which connects hundreds of human rights activists across the United States. Daniel Balson, our Europe Advocacy Director, will deliver a presentation at a Ukraine focused panel. Activists will be encouraged to take action and contact their members of Congress, calling for them to not end their humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
- The International Secretariat will have a meeting with Ukrainian officials in the spring to discuss future research projects, especially ones that can provide evidence for future legal investigations by the International Criminal Court. AIUSA will continue to strategize about ways our work can support the Ukrainian people in an ever changing landscape.
- AIUSA recently submitted a joint letter with Amnesty Poland to the White House’s National Security Council, raising concerns about Poland using the Ukraine crisis to hide other human rights violations, such as discriminating against Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, and LGBTI+ refugees and migrants. We encourage governments to admit refugees and migrants equally without regard to ethnicity, race, gender, or religion.
We will continue to defend human rights universally, ensure that justice is served for the crimes that have been committed, and demand that the government of the Russian Federation immediately end its war of aggression against Ukraine.