The UN has said it will await the findings of military probes into the deadly bombing of a charity hospital in Kunduz before its own investigation. MSF has demanded an independent inquiry after staff members were killed.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has demanded an independent inquiry after a dozen of its staff members were killed in a deadly airstrike on Saturday. But on Monday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was too soon to say if an independent probe would be necessary.
“It’s still early days, I think we’re waiting to see what comes out of the official US and NATO and possibly Afghan investigations,” Dujarric told reporters. “I think what we’re looking for is a credible and transparent investigation.”
The US military has promised a full investigation into whether the American military was connected to the destruction of the international NGO’s hospital, but cautioned that it would take time to gather all the facts.
Doctors Without Borders, which has since shuttered its operations leaving the war-torn region without a trauma center, has accused the US military of sidestepping its responsibility.
Earlier, US General John Campbell admitted that US aircraft had struck the hospital but said they had been responding to appeals from their Afghan allies who had come under fire from the Taliban.
“An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck,” the general told reporters.
The dead included 12 hospital staff members and 10 patients, among them three children.
Hospital had been lifeline for residents
The medical charity has said that the US military’s explanation is inadequate in explaining how the hospital – whose GPS location had been transmitted to military officials – came under a sustained bombardment.
The charity said its main building, housing the intensive care unit and emergency rooms, was “repeatedly, very precisely” hit almost every 15 minutes for more than an hour, despite frantic calls from the hospital to military commanders that they were being fired upon.
“Their description of the attack keeps changing – from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government,” said MSF General Director Christopher Stokes. “The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff.”
The bombing would only constitute a war crime if it was proved that the hospital was attacked intentionally, legal experts have said.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Saturday that, “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
The US and Afghanistan are signatories of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations. They are obligated to prosecute those alleged to have committed grave breaches of the conventions or hand them over to another state party for trial.