The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition supports the request by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate the attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, by the United States military that resulted in the deaths of patients and staff. The International Commission was created under the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions specifically to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law and report to the parties (and the public if the parties agree) on its findings.
One of the key ways attacks and interference with health care services can be prevented is to thoroughly investigate violations that occur, both to understand the circumstances of the attack and to promote accountability. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition has supported investigations of attacks on health services by the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict, the Human Rights Council, and other bodies. The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission is another such mechanism, and it could be useful in this case as an impartial and credible fact-finder especially in light of the lack of clarity in initial accounts by the United States regarding how the hospital came under attack and what steps, if any, were taken to identify the nature and function of the facility, warn of an impending attack, and minimize harm to civilians.
In this case, the United States and Afghanistan should provide the consent required to allow the International Commission to conduct such an investigation in a transparent manner.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition promotes the security of health workers and services threatened by war or civil unrest. We monitor attacks on and threats to civilian health, strengthen universal norms of respect for the right to health, demand accountability for perpetrators, and empower providers and civil society groups to be champions for their right to health. It has previously reported on attacks on health care in Afghanistan, including in its recent Global Report.