— The aid group Doctors Without Borders said on Wednesday that an independent investigation into the American military airstrike that gutted the group’s trauma hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz
on Oct. 3 would begin pending the agreement of the United States
and Afghan governments.
The group called for the investigation, to be conducted by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, after criticizing the shifting accounts of the strike by American officials in the days after the attack. At least 22 people were killed, including 12 of the group’s staff members.
“We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough. 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,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, a French-based group also known as Médecins Sans Frontières. “We need to understand what happened and why.”
In Kunduz, as fighting ebbed after the withdrawal of Taliban fighters from the city center, images of the hospital showed extensive wreckage. Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that the hospital’s destruction had left tens of thousands of people without access to emergency care after weeks of intense fighting for the city.
The United States military and the Afghan government have said that they will conduct investigations into the airstrike, but no details from those processes have been released yet.
“Even behind a mistake, there is still a potential violation of humanitarian law that may amount to a war crime,” said Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, a legal director with Doctors Without Borders.
The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission was established under the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions to investigate humanitarian violations, according to the group. The Doctors Without Borders statement said the commission had sent letters to the governments of Afghanistan and the United States on Wednesday seeking cooperation and was awaiting their response to go ahead with its inquiry.