SUDAN WATCH: Sudan: Another MSF aid worker arrested in Darfur - UN alarmed

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sudan: Another MSF aid worker arrested in Darfur - UN alarmed

The latest news reports posted here over the past 24 hours are really disturbing. The UN Security Council's first resolution last year was to ensure that Khartoum provided unimpeded access for aid and reined in their militias.

As far as I am aware, not a single Janjaweed has been arrested - instead, the genocidal regime in Khartoum is arresting aid workers with MSF aka Doctors Without Borders.

It seems like only a few days ago that Sudanese security forces repeatedly beat a BBC correspondent and carted him off, along with a Reuters photographer and a driver, and detained him for questioning even though he had press credentials.

Arresting aid workers who are there risking their lives to help the people of Sudan is outrageous. Clearly, the regime in Khartoum are not fit to govern and cannot - or will not - work to protect the people of Sudan.

Now, today, a second MSF worker has been arrested. This is simply the last straw.

I've said this many times before: everyone in Sudan ought to simply get up and walk out en masse so aid can be pulled out of Sudan and moved into neighbouring countries. Leave the rebels and Khartoum to slug it out and annihilate each other. There is no development aid without people. If there are no people, there is no development. If there are no displaced people in the Sudan, there is no aid for Sudan. Sounds simplistic but I really cannot see any solution other than assisted migration. If the 191-member states of the United Nations and the world's security forces can't sort out a handful of thugs in Khartoum, what hope is there for the people of Sudan - and Uganda - and DR Congo ...

UN alarmed by arrest of MSF aid worker in Sudan

Geneva, Tue May 31 AFP report via Sudan Tribune. Excerpt:

The UN's human rights chief, Louise Arbour, voiced serious concern Tuesday about the arrest of an international aid worker in Sudan who led damning research on rape in the conflict-ridden Darfur region.

"This is a very disturbing development," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

Top Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) official Paul Foreman, was detained in Khartoum Monday and accused of crimes against the Sudanese state. He was later released on bail.

The medical aid group told AFP on Tuesday that its regional coordinator in Darfur, Vincent Hoedt, had also been arrested in the western city of Nyala.

MSF was also accused of "espionage, publication of false reports and of underming the Sudanese state," following Foreman's arrest, the group's Dutch branch said in a statement.

Arbour insisted that MSF had done "nothing more than record these horrendous crimes and try to focus critically needed attention on them".

"Rape and sexual violence are very real features of the life of the women of Darfur," she added.

"This is the conclusion of our monitors, of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur and of all serious investigations into the unfolding human rights crisis in the region."

Dutch aid worker Vincent Hoedt. MSF's Darfur coordinator

Photo: This undated file photograph released by Medicins Sans Frontieres, (MSF) Amsterdam, Tuesday, May 31, 2005 shows Dutch aid worker Vincent Hoedt. MSF's Darfur coordinator, Vincent Hoedt, was arrested in the western region of Sudan this morning and authorities were taking him to the capital, Susanne Staals, spokeswoman for the Dutch branch of Medicins Sans Frontieres said. The Sudanese government was angered by an MSF report, published in March, that said its doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over 4 1/2 months. (AP Photo/ MSF)
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Sudan arrests second MSF aid worker for rape report

Khartoum, Tue May 31 Reuters report by Opheera McDoom Khartoum - additional reporting by Niclas Mika in Amsterdam:

Sudan arrested a second aid worker from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency on Tuesday over a report on hundreds of rapes in the troubled Darfur region, the agency said.

Vince Hoedt, Darfur coordinator for MSF Holland, said he was under arrest and police were escorting him to Khartoum. It was not clear if he was charged with the same offences as the country director who was arrested and released on bail on Monday.

"I have been officially arrested but there are no official charges as yet," he told Reuters from Darfur. He was at the airport waiting to be transported to Khartoum, where he would meet with the authorities.

An MSF spokesman in the Netherlands told Reuters Hoedt saw his arrest warrant but could not read it because it was in Arabic.

Sudan arrested and later released on bail the country head of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, who returned to meet authorities on Tuesday. MSF said in a statement the charges against him were spying, publishing false reports and undermining Sudanese society.

The attorney-general told Reuters on Tuesday the maximum penalty for the charges was three years in prison and then permanent expulsion from the country.

MSF Holland published a report in March detailing about 500 cases of rape over a period of 4 1/2 months in Darfur, where a rebellion has raged for more than 2 years.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and forced more than 2 million from their homes.

The report contained anonymous accounts by victims of their ordeals, including being held and raped repeatedly for several days, beaten and even arrested.

Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday the Sudanese government should be arresting war criminals in Darfur, not aid workers.

"This attack on the bearer of bad news is another assault on free speech," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. "There is no conceivable security or military reason for preventing publication of this kind of public health information.

"This is a perfect illustration of how far the Sudanese government is prepared to go to silence criticism and deny its own responsibility for massive atrocities in Darfur."

A U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the rebellion in Darfur. The documents are with the International Criminal Court, which has been instructed by the U.N. Security Council to investigate alleged crimes against humanity in the remote west of Sudan, the first such referral.

MSF: 80% of Sudanese rape victims reported attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia

London Tue May 31 report by North London Online. Excerpt:

Sudanese authorities have charged a British aid chief with spreading false information in reports by the aid agency about alleged rape cases in Darfur.

Paul Foreman, head of the Dutch branch of Medicins Sans Frontieres, was detained and questioned before being released.

Prosecution lawyer Mohamed Fareed said in a statement that a case had been filed against Foreman and he was asked not to leave the country until interrogations were complete.

The Sudanese government was angered by the MSF report, published in March, that said its doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over four and a half months. The report said more than 80% of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia. The government denied the report.

"Upon interrogation, (Foreman) was not able to substantiate the claims nor could he provide any documents to this effect," Fareed said, complaining that the allegations were published on the group's website and quoted by the United Nations.

Fareed said if such crimes had really happened the culprits would be punished by prison and fines.

Geoffrey Prescott, a spokesman for the Dutch branch of MSF, said Foreman was questioned for several hours about the rape report and charged with crimes against the state and asked to report back to police today.

"We are intrigued by the fact that they are charging us, an agency investing millions in the saving of lives, rather than the people responsible for the rape," Prescott said in Amsterdam.

"It's also interesting that they took the report so personally, when we don't even name them as being responsible."

He said the incident had not impaired the work of about 80 MSF employees working in the country for the Dutch mission.
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UN Emergency Relief Coordinator urges Sudan to drop charges against MSF official

United Nations, Mon May 30 UN News Centre report:

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator today appealed to Sudan to drop charges against a senior official of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who is apparently being targeted for the agency's publication of a report detailing violence against women in the country.

"I am very concerned about the arrest of Paul Foreman, country director of MSF-Holland, in Khartoum earlier today," Jan Egeland said in a statement.

Mr. Foreman has been released on bail.

Confirming the incident on its own website, MSF said the British national has been charged with crimes against the State. "MSF is being accused of publishing false reports, undermining society in Sudan and spying," said the humanitarian relief agency known for operating under dangerous conditions. It voiced outrage at the charges and rejected an suggestion that the report was false.

Urging Sudan's authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Foreman immediately, Mr. Egeland said MSF-Holland "is a crucial partner in our relief effort in Darfur," the country's war-ravaged western region.

According to MSF, the charges relate to "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur," which the agency published in March.

"Faced with hundreds of women and girls seeking medical care following rape and sexual violence in Darfur, MSF wrote and published the report in order to raise awareness about the ongoing violence against women," the agency said, noting that the document "does not accuse the Government of Sudan."

Mr. Egeland, a UN Under-Secretary-General, stressed that MSF's work in treating victims of rape and sexual violence, and speaking out about the terrible crimes being committed, has been exemplary.

"It is an incontestable fact that rape and sexual violence are rampant in the ongoing crisis in Darfur," he said. "The Sudanese Government, the UN and international NGOs only recently made substantial progress in addressing this issue, efforts that must continue to ensure that all victims of sexual violence receive assistance and protection."

Second MSF aid worker arrested in Sudan

Photo: Sudanese men wait to see doctors in the Abu Shouk camp near El-Fasher, Sudan. A second Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) aid worker has been arrested in Sudan, a spokesman for the international aid group, Aymeric Peguillan, told AFP. (AFP/File/Salah Omar)
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BBC says charges are part of a drive by Sudan to end western criticism

UK, Tue 31 May BBC report:

An aid official has been detained in Sudan's Darfur region, a day after his director was charged with spying and spreading false information.

Vince Hoedt, Darfur co-ordinator for the Dutch section of Medecins Sans Frontieres has not yet been charged.

MSF Sudan director Paul Foreman was arrested on Monday and later released on bail, over a report on rape.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the charges are part of a drive by Sudan to end western criticism.

The Sudanese authorities deny accusations that they back the Arab Janjaweed militias alleged to have committed widespread atrocities, such as mass killings and mass rape.

They also deny that the scale of the violence is as severe as reported by aid agencies.

The state crime prosecutor said Mr Foreman had failed to hand over evidence on which the report on rape was based.

Mr Foreman said "medical privilege" and patient confidentiality prevented him from handing over documents requested by the authorities.

The BBC's Martin Plaut, who recently travlled to Darfur, says that many Sudanese believe western aid workers have given information on alleged human rights abuses in Darfur to the United Nations, which has passed a sealed list of 51 war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court.

Our correspondent says that in March, aid workers were threatened over their reports of mass rape.

Another reason for respecting the information, was because women "made pregnant as a result of rape outside wedlock can be arrested by the authorities" in Sudan, which operates strict Islamic sharia law, said MSF Holland spokesman Geoff Prescott

He told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the charity stood by its report, which he described as "accurate and truthful".

Sudan's state crime prosecutor said he had come to conclusion that the report was false.

Mr Foreman could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of falsifying the report.

It is not yet known when he will appear in court.

"We would like to reiterate that we think it's the people who perpetrate rape in Darfur who should be in court, not the people who are trying to bring medical assistance to the victims," Mr Prescott said.

The report - The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur - which came out in March, was based on the treatment of 500 women over a four-and-a-half month period in Darfur.

It details nearly 300 of these cases, with several written up as witness statements, Mr Foreman said.

Human Rights Watch Africa director Peter Takirambudde said Mr Foreman's arrest was "a perfect illustration of how far the Sudanese government is prepared to go to silence criticism and deny its own responsibility for massive atrocities in Darfur."

MSF says it has a significant presence in Darfur, with more than 300 international staff and 3,000 local staff treating some one million patients.

The UN says that about 180,000 people have died in the two-year conflict in Darfur, and more than two million driven from their homes.
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MSF Press Release: Dutch co-ordinator for MSF in Darfur held this morning

Khartoum/Amsterdam, May 31 MSF Press Release [via Eric at Passion of the Present with thanks]:

The international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) expresses its outrage about the arrest of a second representative in Sudan this morning. Dutchman Vincent Hoedt, Regional Co-ordinator for MSF in Darfur, was arrested this morning in Nyala.

Yesterday, May 30, MSF's head of mission Paul Foreman was arrested in Khartoum and later released on bail.

"These arrests are totally unacceptable," said Geoff Prescott, General Director of MSF (Holland). "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur".

The Sudanese authorities accused MSF of crimes against the state, publishing false reports, spying and undermining Sudanese society. MSF demands that all charges are dropped.

"The arrest of two senior co-ordinators severely undermines our ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The people of Darfur, who have been through so much already, must not be allowed to suffer as a result of these actions," said Geoff Prescott.

MSF has been working for more than 20 years in Sudan providing health care and emergency aid to millions of Sudanese civilians. MSF is the principle partner of the Sudanese Ministry of Health in the battle against the Kala Azar and has treated more than 60.000 Sudanese infected.

MSF works in over 29 locations in Darfur with 180 expatriate and 3000 national staff. In the last 12 months in Darfur alone, MSF has provided almost a million medical consultations and treated more than 50.000 children suffering from malnutrition. MSF is not only working in Darfur but throughout the Sudan, bringing medical care to Sudanese afflicted by epidemics and conflict.

Paul Foreman (45 years old) has worked for MSF since 2002. He has worked as head of mission for MSF in Congo-Brazzaville, Angola and Iraq. Foreman is originally from Carlshalton, United Kingdom.

Vincent Hoedt (35 years old) has worked for MSF since 1996 and was born in Rotterdam, Holland. Vincent Hoedt has worked for MSF in Colombia, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Zambia, Albania and Nigeria. Vincent first worked as a logistician, then later as project co-ordinator and head of mission for MSF.

"These arrests are totally unacceptable," said Geoff Prescott, General Director of MSF (Holland). "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur".
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MSF wants Sudanese authorities to solve the crisis, instead of shooting the messenger

Nairobi May 31 report by IRIN:

Sudanese authorities have arrested two senior officials of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) over a report that claimed that hundreds of rapes had taken place in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, MSF said.

Paul Foreman, the head of MSF-Holland was interrogated for three-and-a-half hours, then released on a one million Sudanese dinar [US $4,000] bond on Monday in Khartoum, while Vincent Hoedt, the MSF regional coordinator for Darfur, was ordered to the Sudanese capital for questioning on Tuesday.

"I'm technically arrested and not allowed to leave the country," Foreman told IRIN on Tuesday morning while on his way to a second round of questioning.

"The district attorney charged me with crimes against the state, publishing false information - and they are investigating other areas," he added.

Mohamed Fareed, a prosecuting attorney, said in a statement that "upon interrogation, [Foreman] was not able to substantiate the claims nor could he provide any documents to this effect." If the crimes had really happened, the culprits would be punished, he added.

The charges relate to MSF's report: "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur", which was published on 8 March, MSF said in a statement released on Monday.

"It was an MSF report based on MSF medical consultations. It was written by MSF, and MSF stands by it," Foreman said.

The Sudanese government was angered by the report, which said that MSF doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over four-and-a-half months. More than 80 percent of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia. The report did not accuse the government of Sudan.

Faced with hundreds of women and girls seeking medical care following rape and sexual violence in Darfur, MSF published the report in order to raise awareness about the ongoing violence against women.

In a statement on Monday, Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General, said: "I urge the Sudanese authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Foreman immediately. MSF-Holland is a crucial partner in our relief effort in Darfur. Their work in treating victims of rape and sexual violence, and speaking out about the terrible crimes being committed has been exemplary."

"They treated me well. It was a relatively straightforward question-and-answer session," Foreman noted with regard to his arrest on Monday.

The MSF head of mission did not think the authorities wanted to put him in jail. "They want me to denounce the report or jeopardise the doctor-patient confidentiality of MSF by releasing the medical dossiers. I'm not going to do either of those."

Foreman said the case against MSF had been building up over the past two-and-a-half months, following discussions about the report with the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC). HAC representatives said they were "extremely unhappy" with the report, while the medical charity insisted on following its humanitarian principles.

"We would like them [the Sudanese authorities] to put their energy in solving the crisis, rather than shooting the messenger," he said.

"As providers of medical assistance and as human beings we find it impossible to stay silent when we are witnessing these abuses - wherever they occur. MSF wants to make people and governments aware of these serious violations so that real action is taken to stop them," Geoff Prescott, General-Director of MSF in Amsterdam, Holland, said in a statement on Monday.

"Everybody who has looked into the situation in Darfur, including the government of Sudan, has concluded that rape is a problem," he added.

Egeland stated that it was an "incontestable fact" that rape and sexual violence were rampant in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government, the UN and international NGOs only recently made substantial progress in addressing this issue, efforts that must continue to ensure that all victims of sexual violence receive assistance and protection," he noted.

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