ACTION ALERT: Tell President Obama to Consent to Independent Investigation of Kunduz Hospital Bombing
October 18, 2015
Petition by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres USA
In the early hours of October 3, a US gunship bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan killing 22. In the name of our killed and wounded colleagues and patients -- and for all of our staff and patients worldwide -- MSF has called for an independent investigation into the US air attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law.
ACTION ALERT: Tell President Obama to Consent to Independent Investigation of Kunduz Hospital Bombing
Petition by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) USA
(October 17, 2015) -- In the early morning hours of October 3, a US gunship repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan.
The attacks killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, and injured more than three dozen patients and MSF staff. The hospital itself was destroyed, leaving several hundred thousand people without access to emergency trauma care.
Survivors have recounted it as a horrifying experience. Beyond that, attacking a protected site such as a hospital is a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions.
The precise GPS coordinates of the four-year-old MSF hospital in Kunduz were provided to US and Afghan authorities in Washington and Kabul in the days prior to the bombing, and the hospital contained nearly 200 patients and staff at the time of the attack.
Investigations have been launched by the US, NATO, and the Afghan government, but it is impossible to expect the parties involved in the conflict to carry out independent and impartial investigations of acts in which they themselves are implicated.
It was for that reason, and in the name of our killed and wounded colleagues and patients -- and for all of our staff and patients worldwide -- that MSF called for an independent international investigation into the events of October 3 by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law.
Now that the call to mobilize the IHFFC has been answered, we are calling for the United States and the Obama administration to consent to the IHFFC investigation into the Kunduz hospital bombing, as it must before a truly impartial truth-seeking investigation can be launched.
PLEASE SIGN NOW!
By signing this petition, you can add your voice to these calls and demand that parties to this conflict -- and parties to conflicts the world over -- respect the statutes of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions.
The preservation of health facilities as neutral, protected spaces depends on this. If not for the recognition of these principles, MSF and other humanitarian organizations could not work in conflict zones and other places rife with violence. We could not deliver the medical care so many people so desperately need.
That is why our call is not only about Kunduz and not only about the United States. It is directed at all nations, and all parties to conflicts, and it is an opportunity for all to reaffirm their commitment to International Humanitarian Law, to reaffirm the right of organizations like ours to provide medical care independently and impartiality in conflict zones, and to reaffirm the effort to bring some humanity to the worst of circumstances, now and into the future.
Please add your voice, and call on people in your networks to add their voices, to our call on the United States and the Obama administration to consent to the IHFFC investigation into the Kunduz hospital attack. Because even wars have rules.
Kunduz Hospital Attack Factsheet
Doctors Without Borders
(October 7, 2015) -- From 2:08 a.m. until 3:15 a.m. on Saturday, October 3, the Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15-minute intervals. The main hospital building, which housed the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was hit with precision, repeatedly, during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.
Update, October 7, 2015
"We received President Obama's apology today for the attack against our trauma hospital in Afghanistan. However, we reiterate our ask that the US government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened."
-- Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President
* The total number of people killed in the attack is 22, including 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients. Thirty-seven people were injured, including 19 members of the MSF team.
* From September 28, when major fighting broke out in Kunduz city, until the time of the attack, MSF teams in Kunduz had treated 394 wounded people in the hospital.
* When the aerial attack occurred, there were 105 patients in the hospital and more than 80 MSF international and Afghan staff present.
* Our staff reported no armed combatants or fighting in the compound prior to the airstrike.
* MSF’s facility in Kunduz was a fully functioning hospital that was full of patients and MSF staff.
* The attacks took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, 29 September. The attack continued for more than 30 minutes after we first informed US and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington that it was a hospital being hit.
* In the aftermath of the attack, the MSF team desperately tried to move wounded and ill patients out of harm’s way, and tried to save the lives of wounded colleagues and patients after setting up a makeshift operating theatre in an undamaged room.
* MSF’s hospital was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan, providing free high level life- and limb-saving trauma care. In 2014, more than 22,000 patients received care at the hospital and more than 5900 surgeries were performed.
Slideshow: MSF's Work in Kunduz
* The MSF hospital in Kunduz has been partially destroyed and is no longer operational. This leaves thousands of people without access to emergency medical care when they need it most.
* We demand an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC.org) to establish the facts of this event. The IHFFC is not a UN body; it was created in 1991 by Additional Protocol 1, article 90 of the Geneva Conventions that govern the rules of war. The IHFFC is set up for precisely this purpose: to independently investigate violations of humanitarian law, such as attacks on hospitals, which are protected in conflict zones.
* MSF started working in Afghanistan in 1980. In Kunduz, as in the rest of Afghanistan, Afghan and international staff work together to ensure the best quality of treatment. MSF supports the Ministry of Public Health in Ahmad Shah Baba hospital in eastern Kabul; Dasht-e-Barchi maternity center in western Kabul; and Boost hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. In Khost, in the east of the country, MSF operates a maternity hospital.
* As in all its projects, MSF doctors treat people according to their medical needs and do not make distinctions based on a patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.
* MSF relies only on private funding, and does not accept money from any government, for its work in Afghanistan.
"Even War Has Rules"
Speech delivered by Dr. Joanne Liu, International President,
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
PALAIS DES NATIONS, Geneva, Switzerland (October 7, 2015) -- On Saturday morning, MSF patients and staff killed in Kunduz joined the countless number of people who have been killed around the world in conflict zones and referred to as "collateral damage" or as an "inevitable consequence of war." International humanitarian law is not about "mistakes." It is about intention, facts, and why.
The US attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz was the biggest loss of life for our organization in an airstrike. Tens of thousands of people in Kunduz can no longer receive medical care now when they need it most. Today we say: enough. Even war has rules.
In Kunduz 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. One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table -- an office desk -- while his colleagues tried to save his life.
Today we pay tribute to those who died in this abhorrent attack. And we pay tribute to those MSF staff who, while watching their colleagues die and with their hospital still on fire, carried on treating the wounded.
This was not just an attack on our hospital -- it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated. These Conventions govern the rules of war and were established to protect civilians in conflicts -- including patients, medical workers, and facilities. They bring some humanity into what is otherwise an inhumane situation.
The Geneva Conventions are not just an abstract legal framework -- they are the difference between life and death for medical teams on the frontline. They are what allow patients to access our health facilities safely and what allows us to provide health care without being targeted.
It is precisely because attacking hospitals in war zones is prohibited that we expected to be protected. And yet, ten patients, including three children and twelve MSF staff, were killed in the aerial raids.
The facts and circumstances of this attack must be investigated independently and impartially, particularly given the inconsistencies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened over recent days. We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the US, NATO, and Afghan forces.
Today we announce that we are seeking an investigation into the Kunduz attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. This Commission 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. We ask signatory States to activate the Commission to establish the truth and to reassert the protected status of hospitals in conflict.
Though this body has existed since 1991, the Commission has not yet been used. It requires one of the 76 signatory States to sponsor an inquiry. Governments up to now have been too polite or afraid to set a precedent. The tool exists and it is time it is activated.
It is unacceptable that States hide behind "gentlemen’s agreements" and in doing so create a free-for-all and an environment of impunity. It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake.
Today we are fighting back for the respect of the Geneva Conventions. As doctors, we are fighting back for the sake of our patients. We need you, as members of the public, to stand with us to insist that even wars have rules.
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