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Global body asks to probe Afghan hospital airstrikes

Chase WinterOctober 14, 2015

MSF has been notified that an international fact-finding commission has requested approval from the US and Afghanistan to investigate the airstrikes on its hospital in Kunduz. Twenty-two people were killed.

MSF hospital in Kunduz after US airstrikes.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/MSF

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, has been told an international fact-finding commission has requested approval from the United States and Afghanistan to conduct an independent investigation into the airstrikes on its hospital in Kunduz.

MSF said that the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) has been "activated" as the first step needed to start an independent investigation into the US airstrikes, which killed 12 MSF staff members and at least 10 patients and wounded 37 people on October 3.

The IHFFC is an independent body that investigates violations of international humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions. State parties, in this case Afghanistan and the United States, must approve the commission's investigation for it to proceed.

MSF has called for an independent investigation into the airstrikes on its hospital, which may amount to a violation of the international laws of war. Immediately after the incident, investigations were opened by NATO, the US Department of Justice, the Pentagon and a combined American-Afghan group. US President Barack Obama also apologized to the medical aid group.

"We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough. We are still in the dark about why a well-known hospital full of patients and medical staff was repeatedly bombarded for more than an hour," Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President, said in a statement. "We need to understand what happened and why."

MSF said they cannot rely on an internal military investigation.

"We need to know if the rules of war have changed, not just for Kunduz, but for the safety of our teams working in frontline hospitals all over the world," Liu added.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle's Conflict Zone this week, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove said he supports an independent investigation into the incident. That contradicts the view of top US defense officials, who have so far not supported an independent investigation.

Multiple airstrikes hit MSF's hospital as Afghan security forces backed by US air power and Special Forces struggled to take back Kunduz after the Taliban briefly overran the northern Afghan city. MSF then closed down the facility, leaving hundreds of people in need without medical care.