Why hospital bombings remain difficult to prosecute as war crimes

With the war in Ukraine the targeting of healthcare settings has once again come under the spotlight. Madlen Davies reports on the efforts to gather evidence of war crimes—and why so few incidents have been successfully prosecuted.

Oleh Tkachenko was delivering bread when he heard an explosion. He works as a pastor in a Baptist church in Vuhledar, a city in the southern Donetsk Oblast region of Ukraine. He ran to the city’s hospital immediately and saw its windows were shattered, with three people lying in the street and two on the hospital’s steps. One woman was already dead. He helped a mother struggling with a pram to a bomb shelter. On the way he saw two ambulances and the first aid station completely burnt. There were hundreds of pieces of shrapnel everywhere. “At first I was puzzled,” he said. “I couldn’t understand what it was but then I saw the head of the rocket and I saw right away it was a cluster munition.” The 24 February attack killed four civilians and injured 10 people, six of them healthcare workers, according to Human Rights Watch.1


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