Aid group demands probe over Kunduz strike
Doctors Without Borders called for an independent and unprecedented fact-finding mission on Wednesday to investigate a U.S. airstrike on a hospital run by the medical aid group in Afghanistan that killed at least 22 people.
The group, which believes Saturday’s airstrike in Kunduz may have been a war crime, appealed to the U.S., Afghanistan and other countries to mobilize a little-known commission to look into the tragedy.
The aid group, also known by its French language acronym MSF, says it above all wants to ensure respect of international humanitarian law after the most deadly airstrike in its history. A dozen MSF staffers and 10 patients were killed in the hospital airstrike amid fighting between government forces and Taliban rebels in the northeastern city.
The U.S. military has already vowed to conduct an investigation and says the airstrike was a mistake.
MSF international president Joanne Liu called for an impartial and independent probe of the facts and circumstances of the attack, “particularly given the inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened over recent days.
“We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces,” she said.
MSF wants to mobilize the International Humanitarian FactFinding Commission, based in the Swiss capital of Bern. It is made up of diplomats, legal experts, doctors and at least three former military officials from nine European countries, including Britain and Russia.
Fully created after the Gulf War in 1991, the commission has never deployed a fact-finding mission.
“A possible war crime”
Liu said Doctors Without Borders is “working on the assumption of a possible war crime,” but said its real goal is to establish facts about the incident and the chain of command, and clear up the rules of operation for all humanitarian organizations in conflict zones.
The weekend strike “was not just an attack on our hospital, it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated,” she told reporters Wednesday. The U.S. airstrikes have all but shattered the humanitarian aid response in Kunduz, causing MSF — whose hospital was the primary medical facility in the region — and other aid groups to suspend their operations there.
MSF, a Nobel Peace Prizewinning organization that provides medical aid in conflict zones, is awaiting responses to letters it sent Tuesday to 76 countries that signed Article 90 of the additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, seeking to mobilize the 15-member commission. The Conventions, whose roots date to 1864, lay out rules on the conduct of armed conflict notably over protecting noncombatants — including civilians, aid workers, medical personnel and prisoners of war.
This handout photograph released by Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday, Oct. 7, shows medical personnel as they treat wounded colleagues and patients in a hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, Oct. 3, in the aftermath of an airstrike on the facility in the northern Afghan city.