Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital bombing impunity update


Kunduz hospital after the bombing, AFP photo

From Doctors Without Borders/MSF:

Kunduz: Initial reaction to public release of U.S. military investigative report on the attack on MSF trauma hospital

29 April 2016

NEW YORK, APRIL 29, 2016 — The United States military today released its investigative report on the attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on 3 October 2015. The attack killed 42 people, including 14 MSF staff members, and wounded dozens more. …

MSF acknowledges the U.S. military’s efforts to conduct an investigation into the incident. Today, MSF and other medical care providers on the front lines of armed conflicts continually experience attacks on health facilities that go un-investigated by parties to the conflict. However, MSF has said consistently that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation into the Kunduz attack. MSF’s request for an independent and impartial investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission has so far gone unanswered.

“Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which U.S. forces failed to follow the basic laws of war,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF President. “It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the U.S., the attack was not called off.”

The hospital was fully functioning at the time of the airstrikes. The U.S. investigation acknowledges that there were no armed combatants within – and no fire from – the hospital compound.

“The threshold that must be crossed for this deadly incident to amount to a grave breach of international humanitarian law is not whether it was intentional or not,” said Nicolai. “With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today, whether in Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen, armed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital.”

The nature of the deadly bombing of the MSF Kunduz Trauma Centre, and the recurring attacks on medical facilities in Afghanistan, demand from all parties to the conflict a clear reaffirmation of the protected status of medical care in the country. MSF must obtain these necessary assurances in Afghanistan before making any decision on if it is safe to re-start medical activities in Kunduz.

“We can’t put our teams – including our colleagues who survived the traumatic attack – back to work in Kunduz without first having strong and unambiguous assurances from all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan that this will not happen again,” said Nicolai. “We need explicit agreement from all parties to the conflict, including the Afghan authorities and the U.S. military, that there will be no military interference or use of force against MSF medical facilities, personnel, patients and ambulances. Equally, we must be assured that MSF staff can safely provide medical care based solely on medical needs, without discrimination, and regardless of their religious, political or military affiliations. Every day that passes without securing these assurances adds to the death toll from the attack, given the loss of lifesaving medical services to people in the region.”

The administrative punishments announced by the U.S. today are out of proportion to the destruction of a protected medical facility, the deaths of 42 people, the wounding of dozens of others, and the total loss of vital medical services to hundreds of thousands of people. The lack of meaningful accountability sends a worrying signal to warring parties, and is unlikely to act as a deterrent against future violations of the rules of war.

At the same time, it has become clear that the victims and their families have neither the option to pursue legal action against the U.S. military, either in Afghanistan or in the US, nor to claim compensation for loss of life and livelihood. This has only compounded the devastation of the attack.

U.S. Military Investigates And Finds Itself Not Guilty Of War Crimes In Afghan Hospital Bombing: here.

NYT INVESTIGATES WHETHER AFGHAN FORCES TARGETED DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS HOSPITAL “There is evidence — both buried in the report and from interviews conducted on the front lines in Kunduz — that suggests that Afghan troops may have deliberately provided the hospital as a target.” [NYT]

OBAMA BROADENS TROOPS’ ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN “President Barack Obama has approved giving the U.S. military greater ability to accompany and enable Afghan forces battling a resilient Taliban insurgency, in a move to assist them more proactively on the battlefield, a U.S. official told Reuters.” [Reuters]

US Still Can’t Escape Calls for War Crimes Investigation into Its Bombing of MSF Hospital: here.

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