MSF seeks independent inquiry of Afghan bombing as Obama apologises

Medical charity wants air strike that killed 22 investigated under Geneva conventions

International president of  Médecins Sans Frontières Joanne Liu, flanked by  MSF lead counsel Françoise Saulnier and general director of MSF Switzerland Bruno Jochum, at a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

International president of Médecins Sans Frontières Joanne Liu, flanked by MSF lead counsel Françoise Saulnier and general director of MSF Switzerland Bruno Jochum, at a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

 

Médecins Sans Frontières has called for an independent inquiry under the Geneva Conventions into a US air strike on a hospital in Afghanistan that killed at least 22 people, and US president Barack Obama apologised to the medical charity.

The medical charity said the investigation, which can be set up at the request of a single state under the conventions, would gather facts and evidence from the US, Nato and Afghanistan.

“If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries at war,” Joanne Liu, MSF international president, told a press conference in Geneva.

MSF said the investigation would be a first step, aimed to establish facts about the incident and the chain of command that led to the strike. Only then would MSF decide whether to bring criminal charges for loss of life and damage.

The Geneva Conventions are a set of treaties regarding humanitarian issues of civilians and combatants in wartime.

MSF’s call for an investigation followed an admission by the US that American special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly air strike on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan.

White House apology

Asked whether Obama offered some explanation to Liu, Earnest said no. “He merely offered his heartfelt apology” and a commitment to find out what went wrong, Earnest said.

The air strike on the hospital is among the worst and most visible cases of civilian deaths caused by US forces during the 14-year Afghanistan war that Obama has declared all but over.

Multiple waves

Liu spoke of the chaos as the bombs fell for an hour.

“Our patients burned in their beds, MSF doctors nurses, and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other,” she said.

MSF said the bombing took place despite the fact it had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, September 29th, to avoid the hospital being hit.

“We had eight ICU beds with ventilators, this was high-tech medicine. This was not the little bush hospital. You could not miss it,” Liu said.

“Today we say enough, even war has rules.” – (Reuters/Guardian)