Sergei Davidis: The human rights position is to support Ukraine

15 June 2024

Source: Facebook

In a conversation about human rights, I was surprised to encounter the view that supporting Ukraine and its army is not a human rights position. A human rights position, they said, would be to demand an immediate ceasefire and condemn the murder of Russian military personnel in Ukraine. I then faced several related accusations. I feel compelled to share my personal reaction to these accusations.

I do believe my colleagues are in the wrong here.

Equating the aggressor with the victim is not a human rights position. Denying the victim of aggression the right to protect themselves in accordance with the UN Charter is not a human rights position. Condemning the Armed Forces of Ukraine for military action that does not violate the laws and customs of war and that targets Russian military personnel, including those conscripted, is not a human rights position.

It is not for us to make pronouncements about the terms on which Ukraine agrees to a ceasefire. However, any demand for an immediate ceasefire directed at Ukraine means accepting violations of international law and of the rights of millions of people who are living under occupation by a terrorist regime and have been displaced from their homes and lost all their property. Such a demand has nothing to do with human rights. Nor does calling on Ukraine to fight for victory at all costs constitute human rights. The decision here should be made by the Ukrainian people, and as long as they have the will and strength to exercise their right to defend themselves, the human rights position is to support Ukraine.

The same goes for supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces. If Ukraine is in the right, and it exercises the right to defend itself as a victim of aggression (and this is undeniably the case), then it is absurd and hypocritical to condemn the killing of Russian military personnel during the hostilities (whoever is responsible for it, be they Ukrainians or Russians fighting as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine). It is important and necessary to help conscripted Russian military personnel to evade or cease their involvement in the war, and to heap praise on those who do. You can sympathise (and I do sympathise) with those who have ended up on the front, the victims of deception, coercion, and manipulation. But this sympathy does not alter the fact of the matter, which is that these people are now occupiers on foreign soil and parties to armed aggression, and therefore legitimate targets. Putin and his henchmen should be condemned for their deaths. To condemn Ukrainian servicemen, citizenship and nationality aside, is either Putinism or hypocrisy – there is no other possibility.

War crimes can and should be condemned, no matter who committed them, but not the deed itself of military action against the aggressor.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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