Thursday, 12 November 2015
Medecins Sans Frontieres: Kunduz Hospital Bombing
I ask that general business notice of motion No. 898, standing in my name and in the name of Senator Singh, for today, which relates to Medecins Sans Frontieres and the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz, be taken as a formal motion.
It is hard to know where to start. This is a motion which should have been given the ability to have been voted on formally. The minister may want to make an explanation as to why on earth he would oppose a motion offering, on behalf of the Senate, condolences to MSF for the deadly bombing of its hospital by United States forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff and 10 patients. This is the only trauma facility of its kind in north-eastern Afghanistan. The motion proposes nothing more than does NATO Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove—and NATO has the lead in Afghanistan and we have been working with ISAF forces there since 2001—who has publicly supported the call for an investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, not by the US military itself.
This is, prima facie, a war crime. It should be treated in a much less cavalier fashion than simply the denying of leave on a motion in this place. It needs proper and independent investigation.
The accidental bombing of the Kunduz hospital was a tragic and distressing incident. Medecins Sans Frontieres provides critical life-saving care in some of the world's most difficult and dangerous conflict zones, and all Australians have a great respect for the important work that MSF does. It is essential that health facilities remain neutral and protected spaces—particularly in conflict zones, where they are most needed.
The US government has made a number of statements of sympathy to the victims and their families and has offered compensation. The US has announced it will undertake a full investigation into this incident. Separate NATO and Afghan military investigations have also been announced.
The government supports a thorough, effective and transparent investigation into this incident. The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission does not have jurisdiction to undertake an investigation into the incident. On that basis, the government does not support calls for it to play a role in investigating this incident. We have every confidence in the investigations already underway and hope that they will produce information to assist those who have lost loved ones and ensure that future such incidents are prevented.
I would just like to put on record the Labor Party wishing to put its deepest condolences to Medecins Sans Frontieres for the deadly bombing of their hospital and for the people who were lost in that tragedy.