Eastern Ukraine: Killing of 18 year old could be war crime

Both sides responsible for indiscriminate attacks 

The killing of a schoolboy and an 18-year-old during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday highlights a larger pattern of indiscriminate attacks which could amount to war crimes, Amnesty International said today. 


John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia director of Amnesty International said: 


“Both Ukrainian government and separatist forces must immediately stop carrying out indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war.  


“These continuing civilian deaths – a predictable result of such attacks – are inexcusable and those responsible on both sides must be held accountable.


“Both sides in this conflict have been responsible for a pattern of indiscriminate attacks on populated areas. They have killed and injured civilians, and destroyed civilian homes, and there would appear to be little impetus on both sides to end these violations.” 


During a recent research mission, Amnesty documented more than 20 recent civilian deaths due to shelling and rocket fire in the eastern Ukrainian towns of Donetsk, Avdiivka, and Debaltseve. Most of the deaths, which took place in residential neighbourhoods, appeared to be the result of indiscriminate attacks, with the attacking forces using weapons that could not be targeted with sufficient accuracy to distinguish between civilian and military objects. 


The large majority of the deaths were in separatist-held territory in Donetsk, and were likely caused by Ukrainian government forces, but separatist forces appeared responsible for several deaths in Avdiivka and Debaltseve, areas under government control. 


Amnesty’s research strongly suggests that separatist forces fired from these neighbourhoods, and Ukrainian government forces fired into them. In at least one instance, government forces placed an artillery position in a residential area. 


International humanitarian law – the laws of war – prohibits attacks that target civilians and civilian structures, as well as attacks in civilian areas that cannot be directed at a specific military objective. Both sides in the conflict have violated the prohibition by relying on unguided mortars and rockets that cannot be aimed with any precision in highly populated civilian areas.  By basing troops, weaponry and other military targets in residential areas, Ukrainian government and separatist forces have failed to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians. 

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