The Double Lens of International Law

On Saturday morning, once again, the world became painfully aware of the monstrosities of war. At that time, allied units in Afghanistan — most likely U.S. — had been bombarding a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz for over an hour. Certainly, it isn’t necessary to remind the actors that such activities are altogether prohibited in wartime or during times of peace. This attack is a significant offense toward and a violation of international humanitarian law. It killed 12 organization workers and at least seven patients — three of whom were children — and injured 37, 19 of them hospital personnel.

All parties to the conflict knew the location of the hospital. Doctors Without Borders announced the hospital’s position on Tuesday, Sept. 29, to protect its patients. At the time of the bombing, despite their being in a life-threatening situation, the doctors in the hospital called American and Afghan army representatives in Kabul and Washington. However, the bombardment continued for another 30 minutes. The first official U.S. reaction labeled the dead doctors and patients as “collateral damage.” For their second attempt, [they said that] Taliban fighters were in the hospital — first, cynicism, and then, a lie. Indeed, even if the latter were true, it would mean the U.S. and its allies bombed the hospital on purpose to target an undetermined number of armed men. You can form your own opinion as to whether the hospital was the target of the strike, based on the testimonial of Doctors Without Borders: “The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.”

Once we’ve expressed our deepest condolences to the mourners, as an international community, we must insist on a thorough and completely independent investigation to discern exactly what happened and point to the real perpetrators rather than scapegoats. This is the only way to clearly signal that international law applies equally to all, and that if that is no longer the case, that it must be thoroughly revised. We cannot use double standards, especially when it comes to such barbaric acts. It is inconceivable to accept a mere apology and a situation unchanged because the culprit is a state that poses as the defender of democracy and civilization.

Deputies from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) put forth a proposal for the European Parliament to raise this issue at its plenary session. We are very pleased that the proposal was accepted and that Parliament has refused a black-and-white view of the world. All the same, we cannot ignore the fact that patients were burned to death in their beds and that their deaths were at the hands of such a well-known geopolitical actor. For KSCM representatives in Brussels, the proposal is only the beginning. It’s good that the European Parliament doesn’t want to hush up these tragic events, but the principal point is that an exhaustive and independent investigation must be conducted, and the guilty parties must be punished. Otherwise, it is impossible to speak of law and justice.

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