CIVIC Calls For U.S. Military To Adhere To New Tactical Guidance After MSF Bombing

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 29, 2016)—Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) welcomes today’s release of the results of the investigation by the U.S. military into the October 2015 bombing of a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Given the cascade of mistakes made, CIVIC calls for concrete, corrective actions from the U.S. to ensure that such tragic incidents are not repeated.

The commander of U.S. CENTCOM, Army General Joseph Votel, in an announcement on Friday, described how a breakdown of targeting procedures and a failure of military personnel to follow guidance lead to the deaths of more than 40 men, women, and children, as well as the destruction of the only hospital in war-torn Kunduz.

“Forty-two people died and it didn’t have to happen,” said Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager for MENA & South Asia. “Now, following Kunduz, commanders must ensure that corrective measures, such as new tactical guidance and training on rules of engagement, are strictly followed in the field and prior to deployment.”

After the attack, President Barack Obama apologized to MSF. U.S. military officials admitted to a number of mistakes and visited Kunduz and apologized to the families. An investigation was launched and preliminary results were made public in November. The U.S. also made condolence payments to victims of the attack, but families have complained that $6,000 for a death and $3,000 for an injury are inadequate for the losses they have suffered.

“No amount of money can bring back loved ones,” said Muhammedally. “But the U.S. should revisit its assistance to the victims to ensure their needs are being met.”

Criminal charges have not been filed, but 16 service members, including a two-star general, have received suspensions and potentially career-ending letters of reprimand. “The U.S. needs to make any punishment serious enough to send a clear signal that failure to follow the law of armed conflict resulting in harm to civilians will have severe consequences,” said Muhammedally. “Disciplinary measures are not enough.”

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Notes to editors:

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

CIVIC has documented and reported on the war in Afghanistan’s effect on civilians, and their expectations of justice and assistance following harm. Read our reports at https://civiliansinconflict.org/our-work/countries/afghanistan/.

For more information, contact Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org.