US strike on Afghan hospital 'not war crime'

WASHINGTON • A United States military investigation has concluded that a deadly air strike in Afghanistan last year that destroyed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders did not amount to a war crime but was caused by a number of factors, including human errors.

In the Oct 3 strike that destroyed the hospital run by the international medical charity, 42 people were killed and 37 were wounded.

The attack triggered global outrage and forced President Barack Obama to make a rare apology on behalf of US military personnel still deployed in Afghanistan.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, said: "The investigation concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict.

"However, the investigation did not conclude that these failures amounted to a war crime."

The US military has taken disciplinary action against 16 service members, including a general.

The actions included suspension and removal from command, letters of reprimand, formal counselling and extensive retraining.

Gen Votel said it was not a war crime because none of the service members were aware that they were striking a hospital.

The report added that fatigue and "high operational tempo" were also factors. Gen Votel said even though there were fewer US forces on the ground compared with previous years, he was comfortable with the ability of the military to evaluate risk factors.

The report said condolence payments had been made to more than 170 people and families and US$5.7 million (S$7.7 million) had been approved to reconstruct the facility.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline 'US strike on Afghan hospital 'not war crime''. Print Edition | Subscribe