Pressure for Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnes Callamard, to resign, continues to intensify following the resignation of yet another senior official over AI’s widely-condemned report accusing Ukraine’s Armed Forces of placing civilian lives in danger.
In a statement made today, Wednesday, August 10, Par Vestberg, the co-founder of Amnesty International’s Swedish branch, announced his resignation in protest over the growing scandal.
“I have been a member of Amnesty International for almost sixty years,” Vestberg said. “It is with a heavy heart that I end my long and fruitful cooperation due to Amnesty’s statements regarding the war in Ukraine.”
Vestberg has a long history of campaigning extensively for human rights. The President of the PEN International from 1979 to 1986, he went on to found Amnesty International’s Swedish branch in 1963 and became active in the anti-colonial movement, with a particular focus on the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
Vestberg added that at the beginning of its existence, Amnesty International worked on the release of political prisoners, but gradually “expanded its mandate.”
His departure follows the resignation of the head of Amnesty’s Ukrainian office, Oksana Pokalchuk, who also condemned Amnesty’s report – particularly for it failing to highlight the vast crimes against humanity being committed by Russian invaders in Ukraine.
“If you don’t live in a country invaded by occupiers who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders,” Pokalchuk said on Facebook, announcing her resignation on the evening of August 5.
“And there are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not experienced this pain,” she added.
Pokalchuk said she attempted to warn Amnesty’s senior leadership that the report was biased and failed to properly take into account the Ukrainian position, but claims her warning fell on deaf ears.
Calls for the resignation of Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnes Callamard, continue to mount following the incident and the subsequent release of a lacklustre statement that was largely dismissed by analysts as a “non-apology”.
Kyiv Post’s Chief Editor, Bohdan Nahaylo, also condemned the report and called for Callamard to resign.
“You committed a gross error of judgment in a very delicate situation, but also publicly disgraced yourself with personal comments unbefitting an official in your position,” he wrote in an open letter via the Kyiv Post.
“Your handling of AI’s accusations against the Ukrainian military has been disgraceful and reprehensible. You have stabbed Ukraine in the back while it is fighting for its very survival against Russian invaders, and at the same time you have shot your own organization in the foot by delivering a serious blow to its reputation.”