US-NATO Destruction of Afghan Hospital a War Crime

MSF demands explanations after deadly airstrikes hit hospital in Kunduz

“MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital – with more than 180 staff and patients inside – because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimise the attack as ‘collateral damage’. There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds.

MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.”

– Christopher Stokes, General Director, Médecins Sans Frontières

Twelve MSF staff are confirmed killed as well as 10 patients, including three children.

“Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.

Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the US airstrike on Saturday morning. The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and ten patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack.

We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched. We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”

– Christopher Stokes, General Director, Médecins Sans Frontières

Kabul/Brussels – The international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific aerial bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Twelve staff members and 10 patients, including three children, were killed; 37 people were injured including 19 staff members. This attack constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.

All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces. MSF demands a full and transparent account from the Coalition regarding its aerial bombing activities over Kunduz on Saturday morning. MSF also calls for an independent investigation of the attack to ensure maximum transparency and accountability.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF President. “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage’.”

From 2:08 AM until 3:15 AM local time today, MSF’s trauma hospital in Kunduz was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals. The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.

“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF Head of Programmes in northern Afghanistan. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames. Those people that could had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds.”

The bombing took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday 29 September, to avoid that the hospital be hit. As is routine practice for MSF in conflict areas, MSF had communicated the exact location of the hospital to all parties to the conflict.

In the aftermath of the attack, the MSF team desperately tried to save the lives of wounded colleagues and patients, setting up a makeshift operating theatre in an undamaged room. Some of the most critically injured patients were transferred to a hospital in Puli Khumri, a two hour drive away.

“Besides resulting in the deaths of our colleagues and patients, this attack has cut off access to urgent trauma care for the population in Kunduz at a time when its services are most needed,” said Nicolai. “Once again, we call on all warring parties to respect civilians, health facilities, and medical staff, according to International Humanitarian Law.”

Since fighting broke out on Monday, MSF had treated 394 wounded. At the time of the aerial attack there were 105 patients and their caretakers in the hospital, alongside more than 80 international and national MSF staff. MSF expresses its sincere condolences to the families and friends of its staff members and patients who have tragically lost their lives in this attack.

MSF’s hospital is the only facility of its kind in the north-eastern region of Afghanistan. For four years it has been providing free high level life- and limb-saving trauma care. In 2014, more than 22,000 patients received care at the hospital and more than 5,900 surgeries were performed. MSF treats all people according to their medical needs and does not make any distinctions based on a patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.


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