EXPERT COMMENT- President Obama apologises to MSF president for Kunduz bombing

Kunduz bombing

Last night US President Barack Obama apologised to the president of Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) for the bombing that killed at least 22 in the Afghan city of Kunduz.

The US said the bombing was a mistake and it was attempting to strike the Taliban.

MSF wants the bombing to be investigated as a war crime.

The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at The University of Manchester is a research and teaching organisation with a focus on the fundamental research that underpins humanitarian, global health, peace and conflict, and disaster response issues.

“There is, almost always, a political price to pay for acts of this kind.”
Professor Bertrand Taithe

The executive director of The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute is Professor Bertrand Taithe whose area of expertise is the history of humanitarian aid.

He said: “The law has always been extremely clear regarding the fact that a hospital – even when it is the last redoubt of entrenched enemies – cannot be considered a normal target. A hospital is a landmark on any map, in any city, in any masterplan.

“This attack against a hospital staffed by a major medical NGO has to be put in context – many medical structures are under attack today in Syria or Yemen. But this attack reminds us that humanitarian law is often breached – that it has little power of redress – that the emblems of neutrality do not provide safety or security if the warring parties do not wish to abide by international law.”

Professor Taithe continued: “It is striking, however, that there is not more of a public uproar when the armed forces of democracies act against their own legal tradition. This violence has a tendency to backfire whatever its immediate tactical or strategic purpose. If the historical evidence shows that warring parties have long violated the treaties that are meant to make war less inhuman when they imagined they could get away with it – it also shows that there is, almost always, a political price to pay for acts of that kind.”

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