Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sherif Elgebeily on the War Crime of Hospital Air Strikes (SCMP)

"When apologies for hospital air strikes are not enough"
Sherif Elgebeily
South China Morning Post
30 October 2015
For the second time in less than a month, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is coming to terms with the fallout from errant air strikes, first by US forces in Afghanistan and, this time, allegedly by Saudi forces in Yemen. On both occasions, MSF clearly and repeatedly relayed the coordinates of their locations to all parties. The strikes, then, seem deliberate and in clear violation of international humanitarian law; the bombings appear to be war crimes.
       Article 8(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is unequivocal in its condemnation of "intentionally directing attacks against personnel [and] installations … involved in a humanitarian assistance" as part of an international armed conflict. While the Rome Statute is arguably an international treaty, rather than customary law which is applicable upon states irrespective of whether they have signed and ratified it, international humanitarian workers are substantially protected by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which are universally applicable. In short, there is no escape from the wrongful act.
      Despite an apology by US President Barack Obama for the attack that killed over 20 in Kunduz, there is yet to be a transparent investigation. On Yemen, there was an admission of a "mistake" but the Saudi-led coalition has subsequently denied responsibility. Rumours are circulating that MSF improperly relayed its coordinates in Yemen, and that the targeted facilities in Afghanistan were under the control of enemy combatants and therefore lost their protected status under the laws of war... Click here to read the full article.

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