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8 Feb, 2019 02:04

MSF slams Saudi-led probe into Yemen clinic bombing that sought to shift blame on the NGO

MSF slams Saudi-led probe into Yemen clinic bombing that sought to shift blame on the NGO

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has demanded the reopening of an investigation into the Saudi-led bombing of one of its clinics in Yemen. The organization claims the reporting team sent by Riyadh made “false” allegations about it.

MSF expressed its “dismay” at the report delivered by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), a body set up by the Saudi and Emirati governments to look into cases where their warplanes hit non-military targets. 

The report covered the June 11 bombing of a Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) ran by MSF in the northern Yemeni town of Abs. While no one was injured in the strike, it rendered the clinic “non-functional.” It is one of five MSF medical facilities to have been destroyed by airstrikes since the coalition began its airstrikes in 2015.

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Announced with little fanfare in January, JIAT’s findings acknowledged that the Coalition was “partially responsible” for the bombing. However, it also apportioned much of the blame towards MSF, claiming it had not explicitly requested to be placed on a no-strike list, nor had it properly displayed a distinctive emblem. These failures, the report argues, led to the clinic being considered a legitimate target.

Disputing these findings, MSF said the facility had displayed three distinctive logos, including one on the roof. It said it also shared the clinic’s GPS coordinates with the Coalition on at least 12 occasions. Noting that medical facilities were protected under international law, Teresa Sancristoval, Operations Director for MSF, said it was the “sole responsibility” of warring parties in the conflict to ensure such facilities were not attacked.

“The onus cannot be on civilians and medical staff”, she added. MSF have now demanded that an independent investigation be opened into the bombing and that the accusations levelled against it in January’s report be withdrawn.

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Some estimates suggest that over 60,000 people might have been killed by fighting in Yemen. At least a further 85,000 are believed to have perished through malnutrition and diseases associated with it. With over half of Yemen’s medical facilities rendered unusable, MSF clinics provide an invaluable resource in helping to prevent outbreaks of cholera and other easily-preventable diseases.

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