Yemen: MSF dismayed by findings of investigation into bombing of medical facility

Yemen 2018 © MSF

BARCELONA/NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 6, 2019—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is dismayed by several findings of the team appointed by the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition (SELC) to investigate the bombing of an MSF cholera treatment center (CTC) in Abs, Yemen, on June 11, 2018, and demands that the results of the investigation be reviewed and false allegations against MSF be withdrawn.

In a press conference held without notice on January 16, 2019, the SELC-appointed body for investigating such incidents, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), made various unacceptable and contradictory claims that portray MSF as responsible for, rather than a victim of, the bombing.

While the report recognizes that the SELC was partly responsible for the bombing, it fails to shed full light on—and attribute clear responsibilities for—yet another attack on humanitarian and medical work in Yemen. Instead, the report seeks to shift responsibility for the attack away from the SELC, claiming that MSF did not take the appropriate measures to prevent the bombing.



The report claims, for example, that MSF failed to display a distinctive emblem on the facility and did not explicitly request that the facility be placed on a no-strike list. In fact, the compound containing the CTC had three distinctive logos displayed, while MSF shared its location at least 12 times in writing with the correct Coalition authorities.

"Under international humanitarian law, medical facilities are protected and may not be lawfully targeted even if they are not marked, or if the geographical locations have not been shared with warring parties," said Teresa Sancristoval, MSF operations director. "It is the sole responsibility of armed parties to the conflict to proactively take all necessary measures to ensure that protected facilities are not attacked. The onus cannot be on civilians and medical staff."  

While no staff or patients were killed in the attack, damage to the newly constructed center rendered it nonfunctional and incapable of receiving patients from the surrounding area, which has a population of more than one million.

MSF facilities in Yemen have been hit five times by Coalition airstrikes since March 2015. Access to MSF's medical facilities is crucial for the civilian population, as only about half of all health facilities in Yemen are fully functional, and outbreaks of cholera and other preventable diseases are occurring regularly.