Per Wastberg has resigned after 60 years with the organisation, citing a report criticizing the Kyiv army
Per Wastberg, who co-founded the Swedish branch of Amnesty International, resigned from the organization on Wednesday. The Swedish activist said his departure was due to Amnesty’s report on the conflict in Ukraine, and that the organization went beyond its original mandate to defend political prisoners.
“I have been a member for over 60 years. It is with a heavy heart that because of Amnesty’s statements regarding the war in Ukraine, I am ending a long and fruitful engagement. Wastberg told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, where he is an occasional columnist.
“Since its creation, Amnesty has worked for the freedom of political prisoners all over the world”, said Wastberg, co-founder of the Swedish subsidiary in 1964. “She has since gradually, sometimes questionably, broadened her mandate” and become a different type of organization, he added.
Amnesty faced a torrent of criticism after publishing a report on August 4 that Ukraine deliberately placed troops and military vehicles in residential areas and hospitals. The report was based on research in eastern Ukraine from April to July.
“We have documented a tendency for Ukrainian forces to endanger civilians and violate the laws of war when operating in populated areas,” he added. Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said at the time.
Amnesty Ukraine director Oksana Pokalchuk resigned following the report. The kyiv government accused the NGO of making pro-Russian propaganda. President Vladimir Zelensky said anyone who questions Ukraine’s victimization is a “Russia’s accomplice” and “a terrorist themselves.”
While the NGO has since apologized for “distress and anger” caused by their press release on Ukrainian tactics, he did not disavow the report. Callamard commented on the review saying that “war propaganda, disinformation, [and] disinformation” by online trolls “will not affect our impartiality or change the facts.
Amnesty Sweden’s general secretary, Anna Johansson, said in an interview on Wednesday that “about a thousand” members sought to leave the organization because of the Ukraine report. She noted, however, that Amnesty Sweden faced a more serious crisis when it adopted a new policy “on the rights of people who have sex for money.”
While Ukraine has a right to defend itself, Johansson said, “does not mean that he has the right to violate international humanitarian law. This is why the discussion must also focus on Ukraine’s actions, otherwise we would be giving Ukraine carte blanche, whatever it does.
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