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AFGHANISTAN. ARMED RAIDS OF EMERGENCY FACILITIES VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW.

AFGHANISTAN. ARMED RAIDS OF EMERGENCY FACILITIES VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW.

During the night of Saturday 30 November, members of the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) and international military ground forces conducted a ‘search operation’ in the Zokuri Khail area of Ghazni province, where EMERGENCY’s Andar First Aid Post (FAP), linked to EMERGENCY Surgical Centre in Kabul by a 24/7 ambulance service, is located.

Approximately 40 people, consisting of armed forces personnel and dog units, entered EMERGENCY’s First Aid Post looking for individuals associated with armed opposition groups. Two nurses, one cleaner and an ambulance driver were on duty that night. No patients were inside the building.

The armed men pressed our staff with questions regarding EMERGENCY’s patients and admission criteria. The EMERGENCY team responded by explaining that the organisation takes care of every arriving patient, with no exceptions, without inquiring about their political orientation, in line with international humanitarian law, which prescribes a duty of care without distinction.

EMERGENCY is an independent and neutral organisation which provides free, high-quality medical and surgical care to everyone, without discrimination.

Although the four staff members were not subjected to any physical violence during the operation, which lasted over two hours, they were asked to remove their clothes. As the incident concluded, all mobile phones and the patient logbook for the month of November were taken away.

We strongly denounce this episode, which is one of many incidents in 2019 involving our staff.

On 7 July 2019, Gul Ahmad, the Supervisor of the Andar First Aid Post, and Musa Khan, a member of the cleaning team, were travelling to Ghazni by motorbike when they were killed by an airstrike. Their bodies, which were unrecognisable after the attack, were only identified due to their EMERGENCY ID badges, a reminder of the organisation they worked for day after day despite the daily risks that exist in an area like Ghazni, one of the provinces most affected by fighting in the country.

On 14 May 2019 at around 23:30, approximately 100 ANSF members and international military ground forces forcefully entered one of our buildings in search of a Taliban commander. They inspected the clinic looking for explosive material and removed our staff from the clinic, using them as human shields whilst searching the surrounding area. When the ‘investigations’ concluded, having not found anything at the clinic, the armed personnel took mobile phones and patient logbooks with them, as was the case in the most recent incident.

The patient logbook is a fundamental tool and essential to keep track of developments in our patients’ clinical conditions. Removing the logbook is an additional violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly states that “Civilian hospitals organised to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict”.

“The impact of Afghanistan’s conflict on civilians is appalling. For the sixth year in a row, there have already been more than 8,000 civilian casualties. According to UNAMA statistics, the last quarter has seen unprecedented casualty numbers: 4,313 civilian casualties, a 42 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018. What we do, and want to keep doing, is treating all patients who arrive at our facilities. More than 5 million people have been treated in our First Aid Posts since we began activities in Afghanistan in 1999. This is our mission. Trying to obstruct it is unacceptable and represents a serious violation of international humanitarian law, as well as putting thousands of victims’ lives at risk”, concludes Rossella Miccio, President of EMERGENCY.

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