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October 19, 2015
Dear President Obama,
I am writing to ask that the US Government agree to the activation of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), to investigate the October 3 attack by US forces on the Médecins Sans Frontières trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan. In addition, I would ask the US Government use its considerable influence to encourage the Government of Afghanistan to likewise consent.
Doctors of the World USA is the US arm of the global humanitarian and health network, Médecins du Monde. We, like MSF, work in conflict zones and emergencies, as well as other settings. We, like other humanitarian groups, are uncomfortably aware that those patients and staff could have been our patients and staff. We, like our colleague organizations, have in recent years witnessed what appears to be a rising frequency of attacks on medical and health facilities in conflict zones, in defiance of fundamental principles and binding obligations of international humanitarian law (IHL).
MSF’s grief and anger is shared by the entire humanitarian community. We are aware that other investigative mechanisms are at work. We note that, regardless of their technical excellence, these investigations are bound to be subjected to perceptions of partiality. Consent by the US government to the activation of the IHFFC, however, would be a potential means not just of supporting a credible fact-finding effort, but of strengthening the development and efficacy of IHL itself.
In short, the US government could use this terrible episode to demonstrate its leadership and to concretely strengthen the fragile protections that permit humanitarian organizations to do their work. We urge you and others to seize this opportunity, and do so.
Dr Ron Waldman, MD MPH