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MSF says global body asked to investigate US bombing of Afghan hospital

Afghan guards stand at the gate of MSF hospital after an air strike in the city of Kunduz

Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Wednesday that an international humanitarian commission has been formally asked to investigate the US bombing of its hospital in Kunduz,Afghanistan, that killed 22 people including 12 of its staff.

The medical charity had been demanding that the independent humanitarian commission created under the Geneva Conventions in 1991 be activated for the first time to handle the inquiry into the Oct. 3 air strike.

MSF, which said it could not rely on US, NATO and Afghan internal investigations to examine the bombing, said the Swiss-based International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission had been activated at the request of a state that it did not name.

“The IHFFC is now awaiting the agreement of the United States and Afghanistan governments to proceed,” MSF said in a statement. Both nations must give their approval for the investigation to begin.

US President Barack Obama last week apologised to MSF for the air strike that killed 22 people including 12 of the charity’s staff.

MSF has said the 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 the attack. The partial destruction of its trauma hospital has left tens of thousands of Afghans without access to health care.

“We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough. We are still in the dark about why a well-known hospital full of patients and medical staff was repeatedly bombarded for more than an hour,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President. “We need to understand what happened and why.”

The fact-finding commission, composed of 15 experts, was established in 1991 under the Geneva Conventions that aims to protect civilians and non-combatants during war, but has never been activated. Its secretariat is the Swiss capital of Berne.

MSF has previously said it was in talks with Swiss authorities to activate the commission. Swiss foreign ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

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