Human Rights Watch on Wednesday declared an attack on a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul a war crime.
“The attack by unidentified assailants on a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 12, 2020, shows blatant disregard for civilian life and is an apparent war crime, Human Rights Watch said today. A suicide bombing attack and ensuing gun battles killed at least 13 civilians, including 2 infants, and wounded at least 15. More than 80 patients, including children, were evacuated from the hospital,” the Human Rights Watch in a statement on Wednesday.
No armed group claimed responsibility for the attack on the hospital, whose maternity clinic is supported by the international aid organization Médecins San Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
The Taliban has denied involvement. The Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood in Kabul, where the hospital is located, is predominantly Shia and has been the location of a number of attacks by Daesh.
“An attack on a maternity clinic is simply unspeakable,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This attack is the latest incident of an armed group in Afghanistan targeting patients, healthcare workers, and medical facilities.”
“Deliberate attacks on health care in Afghanistan have increased sharply since 2017. Insurgents, including both affiliates of (Daesh) and the Taliban, have been responsible for many of these incidents, although the Afghan national security forces have also raided clinics, killing and assaulting medical workers and patients,” said the statement.
“Those paying the price when armed groups attack medical facilities are not just the patients and medical staff but all Afghans, including children, who are denied essential care when hospitals cannot function,” Gossman said. “In the midst of a pandemic, Afghanistan needs its medical facilities more than ever.”
“International humanitarian law, or the laws of war – applicable to the armed conflict in Afghanistan – protects patients, including wounded soldiers, and all medical personnel from attack. Hospitals and other medical facilities are also protected from attack unless they are being used for offensive military operations. Commanders and combatants who willfully violate these protections are responsible for war crimes. Fighters who may have dressed as doctors or other medical personnel would be committing the war crime of perfidy – feigning civilian status to carry out an attack,” the HRW concluded.
Meanwhile, the death toll of the attack on a maternity ward in the west of Kabul on Tuesday has risen to 24, according to the Ministry of Public Health, which said that 16 others were wounded in the attack that ended after more than five hours of fighting on Tuesday.
Relatives of the victims of Tuesday’s attack on a maternity hospital in the west of Kabul have said that “most of the victims of the attack were pregnant women.”
On Tuesday, 24 were killed and 16 others were wounded in the attack that ended after more than five hours of fighting, said the Ministry of Public Health.
Three attackers stormed the hospital that admits pregnant women and mothers with their children. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack sparked widespread global reactions by politicians and international organizations who called it a "heinous" terror attack and an act against humanity.
The attack started with an explosion outside the hospital and then the attackers entered the facility, fighting with security forces for hours, who quickly arrived at the scene.