Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) accuse United States of “war crime” after hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, is harshly affected by United States airstrike.
A US-conducted airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killed 22 people on Saturday, October 3 when a hospital in the area was bombarded several times over the course of an hour.
The hospital, run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says that 12 staff members, along with 10 patients were killed. Three of the patients were children. 37 others were injured, 19 of which were staff members.
The charity organization asserts that the incident should be considered a “war crime,” however the US claims the casualties were simply collateral damage.
A US probe was sent to investigate the incident, but MSF General Director Christopher Stokes is not satisfied with this, demanding a “full and transparent investigation by an independent international body” be conducted.
American commander in Afghanistan, General John F. Campbell, asserts that the US, NATO, and the Afghani government are conducting investigations into the matter, with NATO’s investigation to be completed in the coming days.
The story over why the airstrikes were conducted and who conducted the airstrikes has been in a state of change, however Campbell’s latest statement claims that the US conducted the airstrike in response to Afghani forces who requested assistance against Taliban forces in the area surrounding the hospital.
According to MSF, however, the main hospital building was precisely and repeatedly hit in intervals of 15 minutes between 2:08 a.m. and 3:15 a.m., causing them to close the hospital and leaving the area with no access to trauma care despite the state of the battle-torn city. The hospital treated 394 patients in the previous week, and 105 patients and caretakers were in the hospital at the time of the bombings.
The issue lies in whether the airstrike should be considered a war crime by international standards. The laws of war restrict attacks on hospitals, schools, and religious buildings, but according to Gregory Steven Gordon, associate professor of law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, attacks can be conducted on these types of facilities if the enemy is using them to conduct attacks themselves.
Despite assertions by the US that they were responding to an Afghani call for help, MSF claims there were no Taliban forces within the hospital at the time. Also, MSF had provided both the US and Afghani forces with precise coordinates for the hospital days before in an attempt to avoid a situation such as this.
This is not the first NATO attack to have devastated civilians and caused a backlash in Kunduz. In September 2009, German NATO personnel called in an airstrike when Taliban forces near Kunduz City attacked NATO fuel tankers. The attack killed 142, most of whom were civilians, and resulted in the removal of the German defense minister as well as the country’s top military officer. The incident also led to a limiting of these kinds of attacks in the area for some years.
The investigation into the current incident at Kunduz is ongoing, and only time will dictate the appropriate repercussions for the United States.