Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is continuing to apply pressure on the United States to determine what happened when it bombed an MSF-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan this month. An OpEd from MSF USA executive director Jason Cone in the New York Times makes the case for an independent investigation.
Our call for an independent international investigation is not a political gesture, pursued solely because the United States was so prominently involved in the Kunduz attack. Just as our medical ethics and commitment to international humanitarian law mandate that we treat all wounded persons in a conflict zone — regardless of affiliation, race or religion, and regardless of how or why they were injured — our founding principles compel us to highlight encroachments on the medical facilities through which we deliver care. We have done so recently in Yemen, Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other places.
But if international humanitarian law is flouted, if violations on this scale can be dismissed as a “mistake,” “the fog of war” or even just “a terrible tragedy,” then all of our medical staff, projects and patients in conflict zones could be jeopardized.
In the case of Kunduz, it is not our responsibility to prove that the United States military violated the laws of war or its own rules of engagement. It is the responsibility of the party that destroyed a fully functioning hospital, with some 200 staff members and patients inside, to prove that it did not.I find it hard not to see the case for an independent investigation made by Cone and MSF as compelling. At the very least, the families of the 22 people killed and MSF deserve to know what happened and for people to be held accountable. But, I am not holding my breath that the U.S. will condone such an investigation. The best bet is that the internal investigation is transparent and honest about its findings.