UN Rights Chief Says US’s Kunduz Hospital Bombing May Be War Crime

An air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 19 people is “utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for a transparent investigation.

“This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement on Saturday.

“The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

He described the bombing as “utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal.”

“International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection. These obligations apply no matter whose air force is involved, and irrespective of the location.”

A hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz has been hit and partially destroyed in an “aerial attack” that killed at least 19 people in the early hours of Saturday. Among the victims were 12 Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) staff and seven patients, including three children.

“Latest: 16 people killed — 9 MSF staff, 7 patients (3 children),” the MSF statement reads.

Some 37 people were seriously wounded during the bombing, including 19 MSF personnel. The critically injured are being transferred to a nearby hospital in Puli Khumri.

According to the statement, the bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed of the incident.

NATO coalition spokesman Colonel Brian Tribus said US forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz at 2:15am on Saturday. He admitted the strike might have “resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

The head of US-led forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, has apologized to Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Reuters reported citing the Afghan president’s office.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday that Washington had launched an investigation in coordination with the Afghan government. The area around the hospital has been the scene of intense fighting between US-Afghan troops and Taliban fighters in recent days, he added.

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