Going Global: Doctors without borders

On Sunday, October 4, international aid service Doctors Without Borders withdrew from the Afghan city of Kunduz after 22 individuals (12 hospital staff and 10 patients including children) were killed and over 37 were wounded in a US airstrike that destroyed their hospital earlier in the weekend.

The US military promised full transparency as it looks into the incident, and NATO is in the process of conducting a preliminary, multinational investigation.

After the incident the Pentagon swiftly released a statement saying that the airstrikes were targeted at insurgents who were firing on US service members from the vicinity of the hospital, and a statement from Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi claimed that up to 15 insurgents were firing from the hospital.  The Associated Press reported video footage showing automatic weapons resting on windowsills within the compound.

However Doctors Without Borders denied this, and spokesperson Kate Stegeman asserted that, “only staff, patients, and caretakers were inside when bombing occurred.” The Taliban later released a statement confirming that its fighters were not in the vicinity at the time when the airstrike took place.

Doctors Without Border released a statement saying, “[The bombing] constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law.”

“If there was a major military operation going on there, our staff would have noticed. And that wasn’t the case when the strikes occurred,” Christopher Stokes, the organization’s general director, said in an interview with CNN.

Top human rights officials at the United Nations have even gone so far as to  say that it could be considered a war crime.