Aid group says U.S. troops raid Afghan hospital

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. troops burst into a Swedish charity-run hospital in Afghanistan and tied up patients’ relatives and staff, the charity said on Sunday, in what it called a breach of deals between the military and aid groups.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) said soldiers had entered its hospital in Wardak, south of Kabul, on Wednesday evening without explanation and conducted a search, including of female wards and toilets.

“Upon entering the hospital they tied up four employees and two family members of patients at the hospital. SCA staff as well as patients (even those in beds) were forced out of rooms/wards throughout the search,” SCA said in a statement.

“This is simply not acceptable,” said SCA Country Director Anders Fange told Reuters.

“It is not only a clear violation of globally recognised humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between aid groups and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, he said.

A press officer for the NATO-led force, Lieutenant-Commander Christine Sidenstricker, said she was aware of an incident but did not have enough information to comment.

U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique said he was not aware of the details of the particular incident, but that international law requires the military to avoid operations in medical facilities.

“The rules are that medical facilities are not combat areas. It’s unacceptible for a medical facility to become an area of active combat operations,” he said. “The only exception to that under the Geneva Conventions is if a risk is being posed to people.”

SCA provides runs health, education and agricultural development programmes in about half of the country’s provinces. It has been based in Afghanistan since the early 1980s.

When the soldiers left, hospital staff were told to report any potential insurgents they treated to the NATO forces, the Swedish group said. Fange said the SCA did not have to do so.

“There is the Hippocratic oath. If anyone is wounded, sick or in need of treatment ... if they are a human being, then they are received and treated as they should be by international law.”