SUDAN WATCH: Sudan charges MSF head over report

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sudan charges MSF head over report

UK, Mon 30 May report by BBC. Excerpt:

The head of the Dutch wing of Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) has been charged with crimes against the Sudanese state over a report on rape in Darfur.

Paul Foreman was arrested on Monday and later released on bail.

The state crime prosecutor said Mr Foreman had failed to hand over evidence on which the report was based. The charity says it is confidential.

Pro-government militia in Darfur are accused of mass rape and killings, but the government denies complicity.

MSF's Paul Foreman
BBC Photo: Paul Foreman, a British national, is charged with crimes against the state

Jail term

"He (Mr Foreman) is on bail and not allowed to leave the country," MSF Holland spokesman Geoff Prescott told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"He's been charged with crimes against the state by the government on the grounds that they didn't seem to have appreciated our report on rape in Darfur".

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

Another reason for respecting the information, Mr Prescott explained, was because women "made pregnant as a result of rape outside wedlock can be arrested by the authorities" in Sudan.

He said 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.

Sensitive

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.

Contrary to Islam

Rape is a sensitive subject for the Sudanese government.

The government had always maintained that, as it runs contrary to Islam, rape is not taking place on the scale that numerous United Nations and international agencies have claimed.

Jan Pronk, head of the United Nations in Sudan, said he deplored the arrest.

UN envoy Jan Pronk

BBC Photo: "That document was a non-political document only based on humanitarian concern of MSF which has done an excellent job of helping victims of rape" - UN envoy Jan Pronk.
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British humanitarian worker with MSF detained in Sudan

Amsterdam, May 30 Associated Press report -- Sudan's government detained a British aid official whose agency had angered it with a report detailing hundreds of cases of rape in the troubled Darfur region, the Amsterdam office of Medecins Sans Frontieres said Monday.

"This is an obvious attempt to intimidate humanitarian groups working in Sudan," Susanne Staals, spokeswoman for the Amsterdam office of Medecins Sans Frontieres, said of Monday's arrest of Paul Foreman, who headed the group's Dutch mission in Darfur.

"We're outraged," Staals said.

Sudanese authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on Foreman's arrest. In the past, they have said the MSF report on rape was untrue. - Full Story via SudanTribune.
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British aid chief held for rapes report

London Tue 31 May Times report by Xan Rice in Nairobi. Excerpt:

When the report was published, Mr Foreman acknowledged he was acting in defiance of orders from the Sudanese Government, but said that he would not violate patient-doctor confidentiality by handing over medical records.

"They have expressed their strong desire that we don't publish it, and I politely declined," Mr Foreman said.

Jan Egeland, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN, supported publication of the report, which he said provided some of the first documented medical evidence of rape in Darfur. But the Sudanese Government has long denied that systematic rape has occurred in its western province.

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