MSF demands explanations after deadly airstrikes hit hospital in Kunduz

05/10/2015 12:59
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, October 5, 2015, Asia-Plus -- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz.

These statements, according to MSF, 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 minimize 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, the statement released by MSF says.

“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,” the MSF statement say, noting that relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.

Not a single member of MSF 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.

“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 October 3, MSF’s trauma hospital in Kunduz was reportedly 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 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 September 29 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.

Since fighting broke out on September 29, 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’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.

MSF is an international medical organization and first worked in Afghanistan in 1980.  MSF opened Kunduz Trauma Center in August 2011 to provide high quality, free medical and surgical care to victims of trauma such as traffic accidents, as well as those with conflict related injuries from bomb blasts or gunshots.  In Afghanistan, MSF supports the Ministry of Public Health in Ahmad Shah Baba hospital in eastern Kabul, Dasht-e Barchi maternity in western Kabul and Boost hospital in Lashkargah, Helmand province.  In Khost, in the east of the country, MSF runs a maternity hospital.  MSF relies only on private funding for its work in Afghanistan and does not accept money from any government.

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