SUDAN WATCH: Sudan arrests Annan's Darfur translator

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sudan arrests Annan's Darfur translator

Khartoum, Tue May 31 Reuters report:

A Sudanese translator who accompanied U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to hear rape victims in Darfur's largest refugee camp has been arrested, Sudan's top U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.

Annan visited Darfur on Saturday and heard complaints against police and government authorities from refugees in Kalma camp in South Darfur, who said they wanted guarantees from Annan that they would not be arrested for speaking with him.

The state minister of humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Yousif Abdalla, publicly assured them of their safety.

"Against that promise a Sudanese translator has been arrested," U.N. envoy Jan Pronk told reporters in Khartoum. "And I am asking them (the government) to keep their word in particular if that word is a public word to the secretary-general of the United Nations," he added.

Annan had entered a reed hut to talk with rape victims, one of whom was pre-pubescent, aid workers said. The translator accompanied him and was later arrested.

The issue of rape is sensitive in Muslim Darfur and the government denies allegations by rights groups, aid agencies and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry that there is widespread rape in Darfur.

Two aid workers from the Dutch Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have been arrested for publishing a report based on medical evidence in the agency's hospitals in Darfur documenting about 500 rape cases over 4 1/2 months in the troubled region.

Pronk also accused the Sudanese media of conducting a "smear campaign" against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and doctors and nurses.

The pro-government Sudan Vision daily published on Monday a full-page report accusing aid agency Medecins du Monde of falsely issuing a report on rape and called for the immediate deportation of the aid workers involved and the organisation to be expelled.

The English-language Sudan Vision article published the names of the rape victim and the two MDM workers involved in the report. The alleged victim was 17 years old.

Pronk said he deplored the Sudanese media for not believing the victims of rape.

"I consider (these) statements in the press ... as a smear campaign against nurses, doctors and NGOs who are helping victims," Pronk said.

He also criticised the media for not writing about the issue of rape despite his lengthy statements on the subject.

Kofi Annan's translator arrested

In this photo made available by the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with women as he visits Kalma Camp in Nyala, south Darfur, Saturday, May 28, 2005. Annan on Saturday called for widening the responsibilities of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, saying the troops need to take a larger role in protecting the region's embattled civilians. (AP Photo/United Nations, Evan Schneide)
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Second Aid Worker Arrested in Darfur

Tue May 31 PA report by Nick Allen via Scotsman. Excerpt:

The arrest of Dutchman Vincent Hoedt followed that of his British colleague Paul Foreman yesterday.

Mr Foreman, 45, is head of mission for the international aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sudan and Mr Hoedt is its regional coordinator in Darfur.

Mr Foreman, who is originally from Carshalton in Surrey, was arrested in Khartoum and has been released on bail. Mr Hoedt was held in the western city of Nyala.

Geoff Prescott of MSF said: "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur. The arrest of two senior coordinators 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."
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UPDATE May 31 19:56 GMT: UN envoy Jan Pronk says Annan translator not arrested

Khartoum, May 31 Reuters report:

Sudan's top UN envoy said on Tuesday that UN. chief Kofi Annan's translator had not been arrested but only harassed by authorities after talking to rape victims in Darfur's largest camp.

Earlier, Jan Pronk had told reporters the translator who entered a small reed hut with Annan to talk alone with rape victims in Kalma camp in South Darfur state on Saturday had been arrested, violating a public promise made by the government not to harass or detain those who spoke to Annan during his visit to the troubled region.

But later on Tuesday night he released a written statement retracting his earlier comments.

"The interpreter has been harassed but not arrested," Pronk's statement said. He said the interpreter had been asked numerous times to report to the authorities in Darfur, but after discussions the local authorities dropped the request.

Earlier Pronk said the government had broken its promise not to harass those who spoke to Annan during his visit by arresting the translator.

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