Thursday, October 02, 2014

Ukraine: Forces must stop firing on civilians after nine killed in Donetsk

Source: Amnesty

Ukrainian and rebel forces must immediately end indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, Amnesty International said today after at least nine civilians were killed in strikes on a school and a bus in Donetsk.

The latest attacks, which took place in the Kievskiy district of the city, came as Amnesty International documented a pattern of indiscriminate shelling and rocket attacks in the area by Ukrainian forces in the past 10 days.

“Ukrainian government forces must immediately stop firing on residential areas in Donetsk,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

“Ukrainian and rebel forces are violating international humanitarian law by endangering civilians with indiscriminate attacks, despite the fact that attacks may only be directed against combatants.

“These attacks are unlawful because Ukrainian forces are using weapons in populated areas that cannot be targeted with sufficient accuracy to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives.”

Today’s attacks resulted in the highest civilian toll in a single day since a ceasefire was struck between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in early September.

Four civilians were killed in the shelling of a school, which had more than 50 children inside at the time, on the day schools across Donetsk opened following a month-long delay due to the armed conflict.

Another five civilians were killed when a minibus was hit – either by rocket fire or a mortar.

Six civilians were killed in Kievskiy district on Sunday, all in the same area as today's attacks.

In a visit to the affected area of Kievskiy on Monday, Amnesty International delegates saw a large rebel artillery piece sitting in the middle of a residential street, less than 10 metres from a house.

“By basing military targets in residential areas, rebel forces have failed to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and have endangered civilians in violation of the laws of war,” said John Dalhuisen.

“By carrying out military operations in the neighbourhood, rebel forces share responsibility for these latest attacks with the Ukrainian forces.”

A local council building and numerous homes were also reportedly hit today in the Kievskiy district, a largely residential area bordering Donetsk airport. It is feared that other civilians may have been injured or killed in the attacks.

Both parties to the conflict employ Grad rockets, which are notoriously imprecise and should not be used in civilian areas.

Both sides have been responsible for a pattern of indiscriminate attacks on populated areas, killing and injuring civilians and destroying their homes.

Over the past 10 days, Amnesty International found evidence of indiscriminate attacks by rebel fighters hitting civilian areas in Debaltseve, northwest of Donetsk, and Avdiivka, just north of Donetsk airport.

“The use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas, such as unguided rockets and mortars, violates international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” said John Dalhuisen.

“All parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”