Claim: Ukraine are using human shields

TheNZThrower

Active Member
The BBC has reported on the Battle of Severodonetsk:

and there have been a few clips in the video (at timestamp 0:25-0:56 & 1:49-2:06) which have caught the attention of some of the commenters, alleging that they prove that Ukraine uses human shields.
Screen Shot 2022-06-18 at 7.59.30 pm.png
The first clip mostly shows foreign volunteer troops running through empty civilian buildings in what is ostensibly an instance of urban warfare, while the second clip shows Ukrainian drone operators inside a house.

The main allegation is that since those troops were hiding inside a civilian structure, it must follow that they're using it as a human shield.

What do you guys have to say about this?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
According to the ICRC:
The prohibition of using human shields in the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I and the Statute of the International Criminal Court are couched in terms of using the presence (or movements) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations...

It can be concluded that the use of human shields requires an intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of those military objectives.
So the mere presence of military hardware among civilian infrastructure is not sufficient to qualify as an instance of human shields. There must be a demonstrable intent, which requires civilians present nearby at the very least. This is my counter argument. Is there anything more to add?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
There is also this twitter post which shows what allegedly are Ukrainian soldiers and an artillery piece inside a civilian house. The watermark says UKR_G_M

EDIT: The watermark is of a pro-Russian telegram account, which states that:
“(U) Ukrainianness of (G) Head (M) Brain” is a sad disease affecting our government and individual representatives of our population
UGM is a state of mind, it is a subculture, it is one of the forms of degradation of our Ukraine Contact
Combine this with the low resolution of the video preventing proper identification of the soldiers, and it all seems rather fishy.
 
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DavidB66

Senior Member
What would be the point of using 'human shields' against the Russians? When has the danger of hitting civilians stopped them, such as in Chechnya, Syria, or in Ukraine itself?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Another allegation regarding human shields comes from a woman called Natalia Usmanova in the following interview:

Her first claim (timestamp 0:15-0:17) is that there was a humanitarian corridor starting from a shopping mall in Mariupol called PortCity, which she was refused access to by the troops in Azovstal, where she was hiding. The corridor in question was on May 4 and Ukrainian led, as confirmed by Ukrainian Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk in a telegram post:
Mariupol humanitarian operation continues:

If the security situation allows, on Wednesday, May 4, we plan to evacuate to Zaporizhzhia from the following points:

1. Mariupol (near the shopping center "Port City") - 08:00.

2. Lunacharsky ring (near Berdyansk) - 10:00.

3. Tokmak - 15:00.

4. Vasylivka - 16:00.
However, Natalia's reports that she was barred from the humanitarian corridor on that date are hard to square with the fact that other citizens were allowed evacuation from Azovstal. The BBC reported on one group of Azovstal evacuees:
A group of civilians who have been evacuated from the besieged city of Mariupol have made their way to the relative safety of the town of Zaporizhzhia after a 200-km journey.

Among them were 69 people who had sheltered in bunkers beneath the massive Azovstal steelworks for months.
And the Red Cross also were arranging an Azovstal corridor with the UN:
Red Cross (ICRC) team is currently participating in an operation to facilitate the safe passage of civilians out of the Azovstal plant and Mariupol towards Zaporizhzhia.

A convoy of buses and ambulances left on 29 April, travelled some 230 kilometres and reached the plant in Mariupol on Saturday morning, local time.

This complex operation is conducted in coordination with the parties to the conflict and the United Nations.
The UN has also likewise confirmed that civilians have been evacuated from Azovstal:
Mr. Guterres issued a second statement welcoming the arrival on Sunday of a new group of more than 170 civilians into Zaporizhzhia from the Azovstal steelworks and other areas of Mariupol.

The successful evacuation operation was coordinated by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
So why was Natalia barred from leaving Azovstal while other civilians sheltering there were allowed to leave? Why was she refused access to a humanitarian corridor that was likely headed by the Ukrainians? It seems rather strange. Could it be due to the particular Ukrainian regiment she was under behaving particularly badly? Or maybe the troops wanted to keep some civilians around as human shields? I don't know.

Her second claim (timestamp 0:57-1:10) was that the Ukrainian troops blocked off her residential area with military vehicles. Now this could be interpreted as the Ukrainians using the area as a human shield, or it could be the case that they're trying to block off a potential Russian advance. I don't know as I am no expert on what happened.

Her third claim (T 3:59-4:10) is that Ukrainian troops fired next to the group of civilians she was with and from the building they reside in.

What do you all make of this?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
What do you all make of this?
"It's Ukraine's own fault when we bomb their refugee shelters, hospitals, or cultural heritage sites."

These are the places where combatants can't be, and I've not seen evidence that Ukrainian combatants are there.
 

CaptainCourgette

Active Member
The first clip mostly shows foreign volunteer troops running through empty civilian buildings in what is ostensibly an instance of urban warfare, while the second clip shows Ukrainian drone operators inside a house.

The main allegation is that since those troops were hiding inside a civilian structure, it must follow that they're using it as a human shield.
The general premise doesnt make sense at all?
Civilian buildings WTF are those, oh those are the 99% of the buildings that currently exist :D

good luck going from army barrack A -> army barrack B without driving on a civilian street

And as DavidB66 mentions whats the use?, see the russian apartment bombings where Putin was willing to kill hundreds of Russians to further his goals https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_apartment_bombings
If they are willing to do this to their own citizens in their own country what on earth is going to give them pause about doing it to non russian people in a foreign country
 

CaptainCourgette

Active Member
True, or Chechnya. Which Russia seems to be repeating the same gameplan in Ukraine, just bomb the **** out of it like in Grozny, eventually you will win from shear attrition.

Though the Chechen wars should of given us an indication of how the ukraine-russian war was going to go. In both those wars the worlds so called 2nd strongest military might still took many months to defeat a nation of barely over a million, contrast that with eg primarily the US going into Iraq (a nation of ~40 million) and defeating saddam in under a month.
Its no wonder Russia has struggled so far, it should of been predictable, a lot of us (me included) got caught up in the propaganda of the strength of the Russian military. A narrative pushed also by the west I suspect

Btw I tried looking for equivalent photos of destruction in Baghdad but couldn't really find them
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
True, or Chechnya. Which Russia seems to be repeating the same gameplan in Ukraine, just bomb the **** out of it like in Grozny, eventually you will win from shear attrition.
The difference is that Ukraine has better backing than Chechnya.
contrast that with eg primarily the US going into Iraq (a nation of ~40 million) and defeating saddam in under a month.
Article:
The United States bombardment of Fallujah began in April 2003, one month after the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. In April 2003 United States forces fired on a group of demonstrators who were protesting against the US presence. US forces alleged they were fired at first, but Human Rights Watch, who visited the site of the protests, concluded that physical evidence did not corroborate US allegations and confirmed the residents' accusations that the US forces fired indiscriminately at the crowd with no provocation. 17 people were killed and 70 were wounded.[1] In a later incident, US soldiers fired on protesters again; Fallujah's mayor, Taha Bedaiwi al-Alwani, said that two people were killed and 14 wounded.[2] Iraqi insurgents were able to claim the city a year later, before they were ousted by a siege and two assaults by US forces. These events caused widespread destruction and a humanitarian crisis in the city and surrounding areas. As of 2004, the city was largely ruined, with 60% of buildings damaged or destroyed, and the population at 30%–50% of pre-war levels.[3]

1280px-thumbnail.jpg

Fallujah suffered extensive damage to residences, mosques, city services, and businesses. The city, once referred to as the "City of Mosques", had over 200 pre-battle mosques of which 60 or so were destroyed in the fighting. Many of these mosques had been used as arms caches and weapon strongpoints by Islamist forces. Of the roughly 50,000 buildings in Fallujah, between 7,000 and 10,000 were estimated to have been destroyed in the offensive and from half to two-thirds of the remaining buildings had notable damage.[60][61


Btw I tried looking for equivalent photos of destruction in Baghdad but couldn't really find them
One problem Russia has with these special operations is that they can't legally send conscripts, and so they're lacking infantry grunts. The alternative is to use lots of artillery and air strikes, which makes these cities look reminiscent of Dresden 1945.
If you can use (more) infantry to conquer a city, you'll have less destruction.

But that's still no excuse to target hospitals and refugee shelters.

(If you don't want your infrastructure destroyed, go the pacifist route; but ever since the invention of nationalism by the French, that's been difficult.)
 
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obiwanbenobi

Active Member
...
(If you don't want your infrastructure destroyed, go the pacifist route; but ever since the invention of nationalism by the French, that's been difficult.)

this is such a strange thing to tag onto the end of a post. and surely also bunk as i'm sure that nationalism was invented long before the French...
 

obiwanbenobi

Active Member
yeah, sure, invade a country and attack civilian infrastructure and then leave the civilians no escape route other than to go through your country and claim that the victims are being used as shields because they don't want to go to your country. yeah, makes perfect sense...
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
@Mendel, what military advantage do the drone operators gain from stationing inside a house than let's say inside a forest or trench?
Why are you asking this question? (and why are you asking me?)
Why is it on topic?
Are there drone operators using houses?

Why do you sleep in a house, and not in a forest or under a bridge?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Why are you asking this question? (and why are you asking me?)
Why is it on topic?
Are there drone operators using houses?

Why do you sleep in a house, and not in a forest or under a bridge?
I was referring to the final clip in the BBC video I linked, which shows drone operators apparently residing in a house.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I was referring to the final clip in the BBC video I linked, which shows drone operators apparently residing in a house.
And what is your issue with drone operators residing in a house?

Do you think that clip shows a densely populated area? Does it even show civilians?
Article:
Rule 23. Each party to the conflict must, to the extent feasible, avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.

Note that this rule isn't actually that hard and fast legally:
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in international, and arguably also in non-international, armed conflicts.
Content from External Source
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.

What are human shields?​

Article:
Rule 97. The use of human shields is prohibited.

Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.

Most examples given in military manuals, or which have been the object of condemnations, have been cases where persons were actually taken to military objectives in order to shield those objectives from attacks.
It's not about buildings, it's about people.

I don't see evidence of this.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
And what is your issue with drone operators residing in a house?

Do you think that clip shows a densely populated area? Does it even show civilians?
Article:
Rule 23. Each party to the conflict must, to the extent feasible, avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.

Note that this rule isn't actually that hard and fast legally:
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in international, and arguably also in non-international, armed conflicts.
Content from External Source
Much thanks m8.

EDIT: The initial argument in my head was:

  1. Any occupation of a civilian building by military personnel qualifies as a use of a human shield
  2. The drone operators occupied a civilian building
Conclusion: the drone operators are using human shields.

Of course, premise 1 is false, as there are a myriad of reasons as to why military personnel might occupy a civilian structure beyond using any potential civilian population as a shield (e.g. because a house is a more comfortable base of operations than the forest or a trench).
 
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Oystein

Senior Member
Again: Civilian humans are protected, not civilian buildings. End of argument.

(With the usual caveat that a small number of buildings is protected and must not be used to shelter military personel and equipment: hospitals, designated landmarks of historical or cultural significance. These are specially marked, in wartimes typically on the roof
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
Again: Civilian humans are protected, not civilian buildings. End of argument.

(With the usual caveat that a small number of buildings is protected and must not be used to shelter military personel and equipment: hospitals, designated landmarks of historical or cultural significance. These are specially marked, in wartimes typically on the roof
A fair bit's covered:
Article 1 – Definition of cultural property
For the purposes of the present Convention, the term `cultural property’ shall cover,
irrespective of origin or ownership:
(a) movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every
people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular;
archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic
interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or
archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of
books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above;
(b) buildings whose main and effective purpose is to preserve or exhibit the movable
cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a) such as museums, large libraries
and depositories of archives, and refuges intended to shelter, in the event of armed
conflict, the movable cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a);
(c) centers containing a large amount of cultural property as defined in sub-paragraphs (a)
and (b), to be known as `centers containing monuments’.
Content from External Source
-- https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/1954_Convention_EN_2020.pdf

My flat's covered, for example, as after 1944 we're now a UNESCO heritage area, so (c) above. (And specifically, my building's a "monument", so (a), too. Yay, I'm doubly-protected from Russian bombs now!)
 

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