Ukraine passes law allowing army deserters to be shot

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Ukraine passes law allowing army deserters to be shot

The Ukrainian parliament has passed a law which authorizes commanding officers to use physical force against army defectors.

It comes as the latest military draft has seen a lack of enthusiasm on the part of potential soldiers.

Ukraine’s parliament voted on Thursday with 260 MPs in favour and only 226 votes needed to pass the law.

NewsWeek report: The Ukrainian parliament has approved a motion to allow commanders in the armed forces to fire at army deserters and use force against servicemen for “negligence” or “drinking alcohol” while on duty.

The motion was discussed in a session yesterday afternoon, with 260 MPs passing it out of a total 320, according to Ukrainian news agency Unian – surpassing the necessary 226 votes needed to pass the bill. It will now be added as an amendment to the current Ukrainian legislation on the regulations imposed on commanders’ actions toward their charges.

The act will allow commanders to “utilise drastic measures” – defined by the UN as the use of force and firearms – towards officers caught acting “negligently” or in violation to the code of conduct during combat duty or while they are on border patrol. The new act adds “drinking alcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages” while on duty as an offence punishable by force.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international watchdog documenting violations of human rights, has spoken out against the move. “Using force to harm or kill when someone is ‘negligent, deserts or drinks alcohol while on duty’ is unlawful under international law,” Yulia Gorbunova, a HRW researcher in Ukraine says.

“It is a disproportionate response which could constitute punishment in violation of international standards,” she adds. “Force in the army can only be used in self defense or where the person is posing an imminent threat to others. Shoot to kill would be an extrajudicial execution and is unlawful,” Gorbunova concludes.

When asked if there was a serious problem with discipline and desertion within the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian armed forces did not comment.

Niamh Harris
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