Australian survivor of Kunduz hospital bombing demands Government action

The only Australian doctor who was in the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan when it was bombed by US forces is outraged no-one has been held accountable for the tragedy.

Dr Kathleen Thomas has accused the Australian Government of not doing enough to press for an independent investigation into the bombing.

The MSF hospital in Kunduz was destroyed by precise and repeated US airstrikes that killed 42 people, including 14 MSF staff members.

It has been six months since the bombing raid on the hospital which had 180 staff and patients inside, and Dr Thomas is still waiting for answers.

She said the lack of action was “deeply frustrating and extremely saddening”.

“The absolute minimal that needs to happen is that the US needs to release their investigation findings so that the public can see it, and particularly MSF can see it.

“If there are consequences to this action then it essentially means that the international community does not accept that this is okay.”

The US has apologised for the incident, describing the attack as a direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures.

MSF maintains the attack was deliberate and it is continuing to call for a war crimes probe into the incident. That call has so far been ignored.

Dr Thomas said there needed to be an independent investigation and the Australian Government should be doing more to ensure it happens.

“We’re setting a real precedent here. The US is supposed to be the peacekeepers of the world. They’re the most dominant force out there,” she said.

“And if they are allowed to get away with this, without sort of having to undergo appropriate investigation, then I think it sets a real precedent for other countries who don’t have as good a humanitarian record to bomb freely without consequence.

“And unless you have consequences for acts that are potentially war crimes, why would any country or organisation just not go ahead and commit those atrocities?”

Dr Thomas said she would never forget the people who died that day — one which she described as life-changing.

“We were having to make horrendous decisions about who we would try and save and who we could not afford to at the time,” she told the ABC’s AM program.

“And of course all those who did die, I will certainly never forget. I can remember every single patient in ICU who died, every staff member who was working that week, and those who did lose their lives.

“And then of course, who could forget the actual attack itself? And that will certainly stay in my mind forever.

“And friends who we were very close to dying in front of our eyes. It was absolutely horrendous.”