Saturday, October 10, 2015

MSF awaits single sponsor from Geneva Convention signatory states to initiate UN inquiry

Afghan aid workers and civilians will suffer the most after the deadly U.S. bombing of a hospital run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern city of Kunduz, experts said on Friday.
At least 22 patients and MSF staff were killed on Saturday when a U.S. aircraft attacked the hospital during fighting between Afghan government troops and Taliban forces.
MSF, which wants an independent international probe into the airstrike, says it has withdrawn its staff from Kunduz and is reviewing all its operations in Afghanistan "to carefully weigh the safety and security of staff and patients."
"MSF's decision to withdraw (from Kunduz), which is unfortunate but completely understandable, could have catastrophic consequences for civilians in the broader region," said Michael Kugelman, senior programme associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
"There are medical facilities in Kunduz and throughout northeastern Afghanistan, but the MSF hospital was the only one that could handle major war injuries. And yet at least for now it has closed down."
MSF, which has been in Afghanistan since 1980, pulled out for a period after five staff were killed in 2004. It has already shut down its hospital's operations in Kunduz and has given no indication of when it might reopen.

According to experts Afghan civilians will bear the brunt after MSF hospital bombing.
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The international humanitarian organization Doctors without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, is doubling down on its calls for an independent investigation into how and why U.S. forces repeatedly bombed its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officials have given contradicting accounts of what led to the bombing.


But MSF Director General Bruno Jochum said this isn’t a case of a random bullet or bomb striking a facility, but rather the methodical destruction of the main building of the trauma hospital.
“The hospital was bombed precisely, the same building precisely, several times in row  by an airplane,” noted Jochum, describing the attack. “So there is no doubt that this building was targeted. What we don’t want to speculate on is the rationale or the intention because this is out of our reach and this is the object of an independent fact-finding mission.”
President of MSF-International, Dr. Joanne Liu says an investigation conducted by parties independent of the conflict is crucial because the implications of the hospital bombing go far beyond a single incident in an Afghan province.
“For me, what is at stake about what happened in Kunduz is about the space for humanitarians to work,” she told reporters at a press conference in Geneva. “If we don’t safeguard that medical space for us to do medical activities, then it’s impossible to work in different contexts like Syria, like South Sudan, like Yemen. So, it is really, really important. If we lets this go, as if it was a non-event, we’re basically giving a blank check to any countries who are at war and conflict.”
Doctors without Borders wants the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to conduct the probe. The body was established by the Geneva Conventions to investigate violations of international humanitarian law. The commission has existed on paper since the 1990s but has never been used. For ad-hoc cases, like the Kunduz hospital bombing, just one member of the 76 Geneva Convention signatory states can initiate the independent inquiry process.

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