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.

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