The media are reporting that president Obama personally called the leaders of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to apologize for the bombing of their hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. But MSF is saying that his apology is not enough and they are calling for an independent investigation into what they strongly feel is a war crime. The article looks into all the factors that make plausible the case that this was a war crime, because no warning was given of an impending attack and a hospital is considered a protected facility that warrants such an action.
“Protected” is a critical word for any war-crimes investigation. But the Afghans have said that Taliban fighters fired on their forces from within hospital, which would potentially compromise its protected status. MSF has unequivocally denied that there was any firing from inside its hospital. Campbell, in his Senate testimony, said US personnel were not under fire and stopped short of saying that Afghan forces had received fire from the medical facility.
But should the US special operators or AC-130 crew have believed the hospital was a legitimate target, international law still requires them to provide notification to personnel within that a strike was to take place, according to experts.
“Any serious violation of the law of armed conflict, such as attacking a hospital that is immune from intentional attack, is a war crime. Hospitals are immune from attack during an armed conflict unless being used by one party to harm the other and then only after a warning that it will be attacked,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell of the University of Notre Dame.
“Hospitals and medical personnel have specific protections that are laid out in the laws of war,” agreed Sarah Knuckey, an international lawyer and professor at Columbia Law School.
“If the Taliban were attacking from the hospital, the building site would lose its protected status. But that doesn’t mean the US or Afghanistan have carte blanche to attack the facility.”
The US government is resisting MSF’s calls for an independent inquiry and claiming that they can be trusted to conduct a full, fair, and transparent investigation, a claim that is laughable on its face given the past history of US investigations into its own actions. As Glenn Greenwald says, if the US is so convinced that they did nothing wrong, why would they object to one? Surely they are the ones who should be most eager to be exonerated by an impartial body, if they are so sure of their innocence? Greenwald also says that the US media has presumptively agreed with the US government that this was merely an accident and thus presumably excused from any culpability.
Meanwhile, Jon Schwarz provides us with a list of other civilian facilities that the US has bombed in the past, the things that the US government, aided by its media allies, would rather you forgot.
Watch the president of MSF International Dr. Joanne Liu deliver an extremely powerful statement about the horror that the people in the hospital went through and why there has to be an independent and impartial international investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-finding Commission and not an internal one by US or NATO forces who were the ones responsible for this atrocity.