Novorossiya, Russian Politics, Ukraine Civil War, Western Politics

Donbass Appeal for UN War Crimes Tribunal Jeopardizes Universal Amnesty

by Karl Pomeroy
Quemado Institute
July 10, 2015

The war crimes of Ukrainian Armed Forces began tragically on the night of June 5, 2014. Situation reports on that fateful night carried the following item: “At 9:00 the enemy commenced massive shelling of Semyonovka and the industrial zone in its vicinity using all manner of artillery and mortar fire. Among equipment used were 122mm, 152mm and 240mm mortars/artillery pieces as well as GRAD rockets. Mass shelling continued until 9:00 and has been resuming, periodically, to present time.”

Thus began the shelling of Donbass civilians by the armies of newly elected Petro Poroshenko. This was his response to the request by Donbass people for basic consideration of their human rights. (See our commentary Tragedy of Donbass: The Saddest Episode in Modern History, by Kennedy Applebaum.)

Kiev’s horrific crimes have continued to this day. The horror of it all is that this mass killing of Donbass civilians has been condoned by the world’s major governments and institutions, including the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, nearly all Western news outlets, and even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the very body tasked with impartial monitoring of military events in Donbass. Evidence of the OSCE’s extreme bias is documented for example in this article of July 9, 2015: Helsinki Meeting: OSCE PA Backs Resolution on Russia’s Alleged Role in Ukraine Crisis.

First let me say this. The main page of our website is reserved for editorials and opinion pieces. Our daily news resides on the News from Novorossiya page (click at top right of screen). When we at Quemado Institute criticize Russia, Putin, Strelkov, or upon very rare occasions the leaderships of the  Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics on this page, it is because we see danger ahead. I, for one, cannot sit back and passively watch blunders and dangerous omissions. My sympathy for the welfare of the two fledgling Republics is too great for benign passivity.

That said, I believe it is urgent that DPR/LPR Prime Ministers Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky take a deeper look at the possible unintended consequences of a UN war crimes tribunal. The two Novorossiya leaders are appealing at this time to the United Nations Security Council for the establishment of a tribunal to investigate the war crimes committed in Donbass by Kiev regime armed forces. (More on this below.) Such an appeal violates the spirit of the Minsk Agreements.

Universal amnesty was built into the Minsk Agreements as a cornerstone. In a world hostile to Donbass, a world that irrationally caters to the authoritarian whims of Kiev, universal amnesty was put into Minsk first and foremost to protect the Novorossiya Armed Forces and the DPR/LPR governments. This is not because they have committed war crimes, but because a blind and vengeful West is likely to accuse them of committing war crimes. Universal amnesty was secondarily put into Minsk to alleviate fears of the Kiev regime that they too might someday be accused of war crimes, thus encouraging Poroshenko to sign.

An appeal for a UN war crimes tribunal, while a logical step in a fair world, might end up an egregious blunder in the unjust society we now have. Once universal amnesty is discarded, there is nothing to protect the hundreds and perhaps thousands of loyal DPR/LPR government officials and military personnel. There is nothing to protect Igor Strelkov, nothing even to protect Vladimir Putin.

Universal amnesty is the most benign of the Minsk requirements, and also the most necessary. It must not be discarded. If there comes a day when the Minsk process folds, when no one is even attempting to save it, then the universal amnesty concept folds along with it. At that point, it is good public relations for the DPR/LPR to make the first UN appeal.

But that time has not yet arrived. Russia, Europe and the US are still trying to rescue Minsk 2.0. Meanwhile, Russia and the Donbass Republics should uphold universal amnesty with all the conviction they have. Publish the crimes of Kiev, broadcast your own case, make your high ideals known. But do not throw away your last line of defense!

Postpone the appeal for a UN tribunal until the day it bears no risk. For now, pursue a well-publicized campaign for the promotion of universal amnesty.

Anton Ponomarev has written a detailed article for Pravda on the DPR/LPR appeal to the UN Security Council for the establishment of a tribunal to investigate Ukrainian Armed Forces war crimes. Quemado Institute has also covered this issue on our News from Novorossiya page. For background on the topic, I post Ponomarev’s article below:


Will Anyone Ever Be Punished for
Crimes Against Humanity in Donbass?

by Anton Ponomarev
July 9, 2015

On July 8th, the leaders of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk made an appeal to the UN Security Council with a request to establish an international tribunal to investigate the actions of the Ukrainian military in the Donbass. “The DPR and LPR request the UN Security Council should establish an international tribunal. We urge the UN Secretary General, permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia to work towards the establishment of an international tribunal. We are ready to provide evidence and all information about the crimes committed by Kiev security forces in the Donbass,” the head of the People’s Republic of Lugansk, Igor Plotnitsky, said at a joint press conference with his counterpart from the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko. The decision, he said, “was a thought-out move.” “We believe that such an international tribunal should take place, because the gravity of the crimes has exceeded the patience of everyone, including of the people of Ukraine,” said Plotnitsky. Alexander Zakharchenko promised that “no death will be forgotten.” According to him, commissions were established in the DPR to investigate the crimes of the Ukrainian military. “The Kiev-led punitive operation has led to thousands of victims. We have established commissions to investigate the crimes of the Ukrainian security forces in the Donbass,” said Zakharchenko.

“As many as 3,684 people, including 523 women and 65 children have been killed in the conflict. 1,212 people have been killed in 2015. More than 3,000 people have gone missing during the conflict,” the head of the DPR said. According to him, almost five thousand houses have been destroyed in the republic during the conflict. “Sixty-three hospitals, 150 schools, 4,854 residential houses, 1,616 non-residential buildings, including factories, mines and factories have been destroyed,” said Zakharchenko. The Russian Investigative Committee has filed more than 40 cases on the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare in the Donbass by the Ukrainian military.

Even Western human rights activists pointed out the indiscriminate use of weapons by Kiev troops. As Human Rights Watch noted, this leads to “a huge number of casualties.” OSCE reports have also recorded the use of cluster munitions by the Ukrainian army, particularly during the shelling of Luhansk in January of this year. Yet, Kiev’s masters in Western capitals disregard all that. They resort to OSCE reports only when they need to find something there to substantiate their arguments about “Russia’s aggression.” When it goes about Kiev’s crimes, the West is silent. US Senator John McCain made the only attempt to justify the actions of the Ukrainian security forces. The US, McCain said, did not supply modern weapons to Ukraine, and Kiev troops were thus forced to use what they could.

The implementation of the initiative of the leaders of the unrecognized republics remains questionable. As long as neither Washington nor European capitals are willing to pay attention to the crimes of the Ukrainian troops, one shall assume that the initiative to create the tribunal would be blocked. However, such suggestions do not justify inaction, of course. According to President of the Russian Association of International Law, Anatoly Kapustin, “the ongoing violations give reason to raise the issue before the UN Security Council – the agency has opportunities to influence Ukraine to stop human rights violations in the conflict zone.”

“Either international commissions will be established, or Ukraine will conduct its own investigation to bring perpetrators to justice. The UN Security Council may also create a tribunal similar to the one that was created for Lebanon. There are many opportunities to resolve the issue. The most important thing for Russia now is to draw the attention of the international community to the ongoing violations, as well as to the fact that no one bears any responsibility,” Anatoly Kapustin told Pravda.Ru.


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