Appeal to the Government of Ukraine regarding its inclusion of foreign fighters and prisoners in defense against Russian aggression

Your Excellency Mr. Kyrylych, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Croatia,

We would like to express our support to the courageous people of Ukraine in their stand against military aggression by Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime. We have started to organize Croatian civil society organizations’ support to your cause, both in humanitarian aid, reception of refugees and advocacy efforts for conflict resolution and peace. Should you need any help which we are able to provide, we stand at your disposal.

Every nation has the right to self-determination and peace, including the right to defense against foreign aggression. However, as civil society activists from one of the very few European countries with recent experience of war similar to Ukraine, we feel the need to warn you of the possible consequences of inviting foreign volunteer fighters, as well as releasing individuals from your prisons, to join your country’s defense forces.

Similar procedures were in force in Croatia during the 1990s Croatian War for Independence, and while we understand the grave need in which Ukraine finds itself, and they may seem helpful right now, you should be aware that in the Croatian case there were instances where they caused unnecessary pain and suffering to many civilians. Unfortunately war crimes have been committed by perpetrators with criminal history prior to the war, in several cases.  During every war there are innocent victims, but intentional killing of civilians and prisoners of war is prohibited by international humanitarian law. Legitimate armed actions are unfortunately sometimes followed by war crimes. While such occurrences were rare when it came to  the members of official Armed Forces of Croatia, they were much more common among informal, paramilitary groups, as well as among volunteers and former convicts. In the chaos of war it is very difficult to control everything that happens on the field and to prevent potential criminal acts by individuals without formal military training and discipline. For these reasons we implore the Government of Ukraine to rescind the calls for inclusion of such individuals and volunteers into the rightful defense of your homeland.