International medical aid group Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent fact-finding commission to investigate the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan regarding the possibility of criminal charges.
The group, known globally as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), noted that the proposed commission would need to collect evidence from the U.S., NATO and Afghanistan to complete a thorough investigation. Following collection and analysis of all of the evidence, the nonprofit will make the decision whether or not to move ahead with criminal charges.
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A U.S. air assault on the building that housed the hospital Saturday killed 22 patients and medical staff (including three children). A total of 37 people were injured in the attack, including 19 staff members, according to the group.
Statement from Doctors Without Borders
“If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries at war,” MSF International President Joanne Liu commented to the media at a presser in Geneva. She also pointed out that there was still no commitment for official cooperation with an independent investigation of the deadly incident to date.
Statement from U.S. Army General John Campbell
U.S. Army General John F. Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the U.S. had the “ultimate responsibility” for the authorization of air attacks on a civilian building.
“A hospital was mistakenly struck,” Campbell admitted. “We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
Campbell went on to say during his testimony that a full accounting would only be available following a thorough Pentagon investigation. He would not provide a timeline for the investigation.
While Campbell described the Afghanistan hospital bombing as a mistake, he did not provide details such as whether the pilots were aiming at another target and missed or whether they were aiming for the building but did not know it was a hospital.
“The U.S. military takes the greatest care in our operations to prevent the loss of innocent life,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter noted. “And when we make mistakes, we own up to them.”
More on Afghanistan hospital bombing and need for independent investigation
The only real details known at this point are that the U.S. gunship that struck the hospital was operating in response to an urgent request for support from Afghan troops under fire from the Taliban.
MSF President Liu noted in her statement released Wednesday that the facts and circumstances of the fatal U.S. hospital bombing must be investigated independently because of “inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened.”
“We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the US, NATO and Afghan forces,” Liu continued.
Liu also pointed out that the Afghanistan hospital bombing was “the biggest loss of life for our organization in an airstrike,” and moreover, now “tens of thousands of people in Kunduz can no longer receive medical care now when they need it most.”
“Our patients burned in their beds,” she said offering graphic dedtails. “Doctors, nurses and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other. One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table — an office desk — while his colleagues tried to save his life.”
The statement concluded with a reminder that “Even war has rules.”