President Barack Obama is guilty of committing the ‘oldest war crime in the book’ by bombing a hospital in Kunduz, according to a leading Manchester conflict expert.
The bombing killed at least 23 people, 13 of which were Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) staff and 10 of their patients on October 3.
MSF are pressing for an investigation into the nature of the attack, identifying it as a war crime.
President Obama has issued a formal apology to MSF, acknowledging it as a mistake during the pursuit of the Taliban.
This sparked a response from University of Manchester’s head of The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute Professor Bertrand Taithe.
Prof Taithe 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.”
Foreseeing political consequences for the United States, he added: “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.”
Recognizing the political climate of Kunduz at this time, Professor Taithe addressed a wider issue with contemporary warfare.
He said: “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.”
In his blog on the subject, the professor addressed the gravity of the situation by identifying the attack as a breach of the Geneva Convention.
Professor Taithe highlights a lack of ‘public uproar’ regarding the alleged war crimes committed.
HE said: “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.”
Forecasting negative effects in the face of the attack for the US, the professor added: “This violence has a tendency to backfire whatever its immediate tactical or strategic purpose.”
Original images courtesy of BBC, via YouTube, with thanks.