Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Human Rights Chief for the United Nations, has called a suspected U.S.-led hospital bombing “inexcusable,” and stated it may be considered a war crime if the bombing was deliberate. “This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” Zeid said.
The incident occurred in the Afghan city of Kunduz, the site of a long and bloody battle for control between Western-trained Afghan forces and Taliban militants. At least 19 people were killed in the attack, including 12 members of Doctors Without Borders. The charity has since indicated they will be leaving the city in the face of the carnage.
On October 4, the Pentagon released a statement indicating they were initiating “a formal investigation to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inquiry.”
Three children were also killed in the attack; 37 others were wounded.
Doctors Without Borders president Meinie Nicolai called the incident “abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
“We demand total transparency from coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.'”
The hospital’s destruction, along with the exit of Doctors Without Borders, will have significant consequences for Kunduz. The besieged city’s wounded, many of them civilians, will need to seek treatment elsewhere. Hours after the Pentagon released their statement, Al-Jazeera reported the Taliban had recaptured Kunduz.
“We condemn the bombing on the hospital. It was an attack carried out on innocent people,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid told Al Jazeera.
“Our mujahideen were not treated at the MSF trauma center due to prevailing military conditions. Such attacks by U.S. forces have taken place in Afghanistan for years now. This very attack has once again exposed the ruthless colors of the invaders to the Afghans.”
The matter is being taken seriously in Washington, D.C. In a statement, President Barack Obama called the attack a “tragic incident,” along with offering sympathy for the victims and their families.
“Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to all of the civilians affected by this incident, their families, and loved ones.”
The Department of Defense investigation will illuminate the circumstances of the bombing, but it’s clear the U.N. Human Rights Council is furious over the matter. Intent is a difficult thing prove, however, and unless it is determined the strike was intentional, it is unlikely much will come of the war crime accusation.