Kunduz: U.S., Afghan Consent Needed for IHFFC Investigation to Commence

Andrew Quilty/Oculi

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been informed that the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) is ready to investigate the bombing of MSF's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on October 3. This is the first step needed to undertake an independent investigation into the U.S. attack on MSF's hospital.

The IHFFC is now awaiting the agreement of the United States and Afghanistan governments to proceed.

"We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough," said Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President. "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. We need to understand what happened and why."

MSF cannot rely only on the ongoing internal investigations by parties to the conflict and remains firm in its call for an independent and impartial investigation by the IHFFC.

The U.S. airstrikes destroyed the main building of MSF's Trauma Center in Kunduz and the hospital is no longer operational. This leaves tens of thousands of people without access to emergency medical and surgical care in a city devastated by weeks of intense fighting.

"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," said Liu.

The IHFFC was established in the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions and is the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law. The IHFFC has sent letters to the governments of the United States and Afghanistan officially offering the Commission's services and awaits their response.

"Respect for the laws of war is what protects our staff and patients in conflict zones throughout the world," said Jason Cone, executive director of MSF-USA. "There must be an independent and impartial investigation to establish the facts of this horrific attack on our hospital. We call on President Obama to consent to the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission investigation without delay. Consenting to the inquiry is a critical step for President Obama to demonstrate the U.S. government's commitment to the Geneva Conventions, and that U.S. forces recognize and respect medical facilities as protected spaces under international humanitarian law."

MSF, an international medical organization, first started working in Afghanistan in 1980. MSF opened the 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 2014, more than 22,000 patients received care at the hospital, and more than 5,900 surgeries were performed. The facility experienced a surge of patients in recent weeks as fighting between government and opposition forces engulfed Kunduz, with 337 people—39 children among them—receiving treatment from September 28 to October 2 alone.

Iron roofing and rubble litter a corridor in the MSF Kunduz Trauma Centre as the facility lies destroyed following the 03 October aerial attack which killed 22 staff and patients in northern Afghanistan. The bomb blasts were so strong that the corrugated iron roof caved in here in the blood laboratory corridor, and elsewhere in the hospital building.
Andrew Quilty/Oculi