MSF reiterates call for independent probe into hospital raid
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reiterated its stance that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation into the Kunduz hospital attack.
Its calls for an independent and impartial investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission had so far gone unanswered, the medical charity said.
In response to the Pentagon report, MSF President Meinie Nicolai said: “Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which US forces failed to follow the basic laws of war.”
In a statement, she said: “It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the US, the attack was not called off.”
The hospital was fully functioning at the time of the airstrikes. The US investigation acknowledged there were no armed combatants within, and no fire from, the hospital compound.
Nicolai said 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.
“With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today … 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 bombing of the Kunduz trauma centre, and the recurring attacks on medical facilities in Afghanistan demanded from all parties to the conflict a clear reaffirmation of the protected status of medical care in the country, she added.
“MSF must obtain these necessary assurances in Afghanistan before making any decision on if it is safe to re-start medical activities in Kunduz,” the official continued.
Nicolai reiterated: “We need explicit agreement from all parties, includingthe Afghan authorities and the US 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…”
The punishments announced by the US were out of proportion to the destruction of a protected medical facility, the deaths of 42 people and the loss of vital medical services to hundreds of thousands of people, she noted.
The MSF president commented the lack of meaningful accountability sent a worrying signal to warring parties, and was unlikely to act as a deterrent against future violations of the rules of war.
At the same time, Nicolai explained, it had become clear the victims and their families had neither the option to pursue legal action against the US military nor to claim compensation for loss of life and livelihood.
The US military has offered $6000 as a condolence payment for each family of the 42 deceased persons and $3000 for other MSF staff, patients and caretakers inside the hospital at the time of the attack.
According to the charity, this form of compensation is worthless as it applies only to incidents that happen outside of combat situations. “This situation for the families is extremely confusing.”
Relatives of the victims told MSF they felt disregarded, insulted and angry about the amount of money offered and the confusing messages from the US. Money will never make up for the tragic loss of life, but some families have lost their sole bread winner.
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