Statement concerning HRW report on the use of landmines in Ukraine
Today, Tuesday 31 January 2023, the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) is to publish a report on the use of PFM-1 anti-personnel mines by the Ukrainian armed forces in the Izium area of the Kharkiv Region. The use of anti-personnel mines is prohibited by the Ottawa Convention. Ukraine has ratified the Convention; Russia has not.
On Sunday, 29 January 2023, we attempted to halt this publication by contacting HRW management. We proposed that we and Human Rights Watch should investigate the issue together, drawing on the knowledge and experience of Ukrainian sappers. Our efforts were in vain.
Regardless of the accuracy of the study, furthermore, the publication of such a report carries significant reputational risks for Ukraine.
Its appearance will undoubtedly affect the Ukrainian government’s efforts to ensure the supply of Western weapons. Human Rights Watch (like Amnesty International) enjoys substantial public credibility in Europe and the United States. Such reports tend to fuel Russian propaganda in the West and undermine public support for ongoing military assistance to Ukraine by Western governments.
A key principle of Freedom of Information states that information may be made publicly available when the harm from publication is less than the harm done by non-publication. When Ukraine is under sustained and relentless attack by a much more militarily-powerful country the publication of such a report, we are convinced, may bring more significant harm than benefits.
In proceeding to publish such a report, despite the stated concerns of Ukraine’s human-rights organizations, we feel that Human Rights Watch is supporting the aggressor, something we deeply regret and resent.
Yevhen Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union