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U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday apologized to Medecins Sans Frontieres for the deadly bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, while the medical charity pressed its demand for an international commission to investigate what it calls a war crime.

MSF said that an independent humanitarian commission created under the Geneva Conventions in 1991 should be activated for the first time to handle the inquiry. Three investigations have already begun into Saturday’s air strike that killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff.

Obama telephoned MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, International President Joanne Liu to apologize and express his condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Asked whether Obama offered some explanation to Liu, Earnest said no.

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“He merely offered his heartfelt apology” and a commitment to find out what went wrong, he said.

Earnest said Obama told Liu that a U.S. investigation would “provide a transparent, thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident. And that, if necessary, the president would implement changes to make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future.”

MSF said that the commission’s inquiry would gather facts and evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan, as well as testimony from MSF staff and patients who survived.

Only then would MSF consider whether to bring criminal charges for loss of life and partial destruction of its trauma hospital, which has left tens of thousands of Afghans without access to health care, it said.

“If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries who are at war,” Liu told a news briefing in Geneva. “If we don’t safeguard that medical space for us to do our activities, then it is impossible to work in other contexts like Syria, South Sudan, like Yemen.”

Neither the United States nor Afghanistan were signatories to the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) but Jason Cone, executive director of MSF in the United States, called on Obama to consent to the commission.

reuters

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