Human Rights Watch urges Ukraine to investigate antipersonnel mine use
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine on Tuesday to investigate allegations that its military used thousands of rocket-launched anti-personnel landmines in and around the eastern city of Izium as Russian forces occupied the area.
Human Rights Watch noted that it also issued three reports last year accusing Russian forces of using antipersonnel mines in various areas across Ukraine since they invaded the country on February 24, 2022.
Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.
“Ukrainian forces appear to have largely scattered landmines around the Izium area, causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” said Steve Goose, director of the weapons division at Human Rights Watch.
“Russian forces have repeatedly used anti-personnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this does not justify Ukrainian use of these banned weapons,” he said.
Ukraine is a party to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Russia is not. Moscow has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.
Human Rights Watch said the use of antipersonnel mines also violates international humanitarian law because the devices cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.
In response to questions, Human Rights Watch said Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Oleksandr Polishchuk wrote in a November 24 letter that Ukraine fully commits to all international obligations in the area of mine use, including “the non- use of anti-personnel mines in war.”
Polishchuk told Human Rights Watch that Ukraine’s forces strictly adhere to international humanitarian law and the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Convention.
The New York-based advocacy group said it conducted research in Ukraine’s Izium between September 19 and October 9, interviewing more than 100 people, including witnesses to landmine use, victims of landmines, first responders, doctors and Ukrainian miners.
“Human Rights Watch documented PFM mine use in nine different areas in and around the city of Izium and verified 11 civilian casualties from these mines,” it said on Tuesday. “The nine areas were all close to where Russian military forces were positioned at the time, suggesting that they were the target.”
A PFM is a scatterable anti-personnel mine, commonly called the ‘butterfly mine’.
Human Rights Watch said Polishchuk did not respond to any of its specific questions about PFM mine use in and around Izium, noting that “information about the type of weapons used by Ukraine… should not be commented on before the war does not end.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Rosalba O’Brien)