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Kunduz clinic staff scramble to treat injured patients after the October bombing. (Photo: MSF)

Rights Groups: Pentagon's Wrist-Slap for Kunduz Hospital Bombing "An Insult"

Pentagon said it would issue "administrative punishments" against service members responsible for deadly bombing, but would not file any criminal charges

Nadia Prupis

Human rights groups said the Pentagon's disciplinary actions against U.S. military personnel for the October bombing of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan were both "an injustice and an insult."

The Department of Defense announced late Wednesday it would issue "administrative punishments" against 12 service members responsible for the disastrous bombing that resulted in the deaths of 42 patients and staff—but would not file any criminal charges.

"For good reason the victims' family members will see this as both an injustice and an insult: the US military investigated itself and decided no crimes had been committed," wrote Patricia Grossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a blog post on Thursday. "The failure to criminally investigate senior officials liable for the attack is not only an affront to the lives lost at the MSF hospital, but a blow against the rule of law in Afghanistan and elsewhere."

MSF, which has called for an independent investigation into the bombing, said it would request more details from the U.S. government before commenting on the disciplinary actions.

The medical charity has said the bombing may amount to a war crime and has denounced previous actions by the U.S. government, such as handing out "condolence payments," that it said were insufficient.

As Grossman pointed out, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter responded to the bombing by promising to conduct a "full and transparent" investigation into the attack and hold people accountable. "Apparently that has not happened," Grossman wrote.

Saeed Haqyar, a Kunduz resident whose uncle was killed in the bombing, told Agence France-Presse Friday, "The [U.S.] punishment is a joke. This inhuman, barbaric crime has pushed bereaved family members to the point of insanity."

The Pentagon is due next week to publish its own report on the attack, although classified material will be redacted.

MSF continues to call for a full and independent investigation.

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