Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Thursday rejected claims that the Taliban had used their Kunduz hospital as a base to fire on security forces.
Addressing a press conference in Kabul, MSF General Director Christopher Stokes and Afghanistan Country Representative Guilhem Molinie also made it clear that the attack was a violation of international laws.
Molinie said: “Statements alleging that the hospital had been used as a base to launch armed attacks are baseless and entirely without merit.”
“No armed insurgents were hiding out in the hospital at the time of the attack,” he said.
He went on to say MSF had regularly shared the Kunduz hospital’s location with officials. “They had shared GPS coordinates with Afghan and US forces,” he said.
Molinie and Stokes both emphasized the organization’s impartiality in treating patients and emphasized that their hospitals are a weapons free zone.
“The presence of any armed people in our facilities is absolutely forbidden and not tolerated,” said Stokes adding that all patients and visitors are required to hand their weapons in before entering their facilities.
They both called Saturday’s attack a grave violation of international law and said no medical institution should be targeted and that those responsible should be held accountable.
Stokes said MSF is still however providing medical care in Kunduz city despite their hospital having been destroyed. He said however, that necessary work was being done to rebuild the facility.
“Our cooperation with the Afghan government will continue and we will continue to treat patients but we want assurances that hospitals will be protected,” he said.
He went on to say that all parties involved in the war need to respect the sanctity of medical facilities.
MSF however called on organizations to help with humanitarian aid to Kunduz and said that they are trying to provide facilities for expectant mothers in the city.
In addition, they called on the Afghan government to also identify those responsible for the attack.
Stokes said: “The Afghan government has given the assurance that such incidents will not be repeated.”
But “coalition forces need to provide answers and ensure such mistakes are never repeated,” he added.
He said: “A hospital is a place of safety, not carnage.”
They did however admit that there were patients in the hospital that were from both sides of the war but made it clear that MSF does not discriminate against anyone and that all patients are treated equally.
The airstrike in the early hours of the morning Saturday killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff members. MSF officials have blamed the United States, demanding an independent investigation into the incident.
United States President Barack Obama in a phone call on Wednesday apologized to MSF chief Joanne Liu for the incident. But Liu, who condemned the airstrike as a war crime, made it clear the organization wants an independent investigation and also said the strike was in violation of international laws.
In addition, U.S defense secretary Ashton Carter expressed his deep condolences and sympathy to the Afghan families who lost their loved ones and said those responsible will be accountable.
On Tuesday the American commander of international forces Gen. John Campbell said that the Kunduz airstrike that hit a MSF hospital was a mistake.