Friday 15 December 2017

Obama apologises to MSF and Afghans for Kunduz strike that killed 22 civilians

US President Barack Obama Credit: Kevin Lamarque
US President Barack Obama Credit: Kevin Lamarque

David Kearns

US President Barack Obama has apologised to Medecins Sans Frontieres for the deadly bombing of its hospital in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama telephoned MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, International President Joanne Liu to apologise and express his condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Asked whether Mr Obama offered some explanation to Liu, Earnest said no.

"He merely offered his heartfelt apology" and offered a commitment to find out what went wrong, he said.

Mr Earnest said a US investigation would "provide a transparent, thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident”.

“And that, if necessary, the president would implement changes to make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future."

MSF has continued to pressed for an international commission to investigate what it called “a war crime”.

Three investigations have already begun into Saturday's air strike that killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff.

The group said that an independent humanitarian commission created under the Geneva Conventions in 1991 should be activated for the first time to handle the inquiry.

“This commission's inquiry would gather facts and evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan, as well as testimony from MSF staff and patients who survived,” it said in a statement.

Only then would MSF consider whether to bring criminal charges for loss of life and partial destruction of its trauma hospital, which has left tens of thousands of Afghans without access to health care, it added.

"If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries who are at war," Ms Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.

"If we don't safeguard that medical space for us to do our activities, then it is impossible to work in other contexts like Syria, South Sudan, like Yemen."

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