ResourcesPress Release

Physicians for Human Rights Condemns Attack on Clinic in Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today condemned an aerial attack on a Doctors without Borders (MSF) clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan that reportedly killed at least 16 people, including nine MSF staff and seven patients.

"This is truly horrific and inexcusable," said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at PHR. "'Collateral damage' is not an acceptable excuse for what by all accounts seems to be a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Targeting a hospital is a war crime and warring parties are obligated to take every measure possible to avoid attacking health facilities."

According to the aid organization, the MSF hospital that has treated hundreds of wounded during the current battle over control of the northern Afghan city was struck repeatedly in spite of the fact that the hospital had communicated its coordinates to coalition and Afghan government authorities. U.S. military officials have acknowledged bombing raids in the area at the time of the hospital bombings and indicated that it could have been “collateral” damage.

PHR calls for a full, independent investigation into this grotesque incident and calls on all warring parties in Afghanistan to respect humanitarian law, including the protection of hospitals, patients and health workers.

PHR documents attacks on medical workers around the world. In Syria, government forces are using attacks on medical facilities and personnel as a systematic weapon to punish civilians for their presumed support of opposition groups. On average, a medical worker was killed every other day and a hospital was bombed every four days in Syria during 2014. Since the conflict started in March 2011, PHR has recorded a total of 307 attacks on 225 medical facilities and the deaths of 670 medical personnel.

“Medical workers now have targets on their backs as they pursue their life-saving work,” said Sirkin. “Extra steps must be taken to avoid harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure even if there is a legitimate military target in the vicinity.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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