SUDAN WATCH: Sudan issues warrant for arrest of head of MSF aid agency - Sudan detains head of MSF

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sudan issues warrant for arrest of head of MSF aid agency - Sudan detains head of MSF

Doctors Without Borders (aka MSF) is one of the most highly regarded aid organisations. Recently, in a post here, I noted how MSF had stuck its head above the parapet with reports on how dire the situation was in the Sudan, which means things must be pretty bad for them to speak out.

In the next post here below, there is a report about MSF reporting 500 rapes or more over recent months. Khartoum has an ongoing problem accepting that rape happens. If the following news is true, it is outrageous and extremely troubling, especially since only last week BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher was beaten by Sudanese security forces:

KHARTOUM, May 30 (Reuters) - Sudan has issued a warrant for the arrest of the country head of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report on hundreds of rape cases in Darfur, the attorney-general said on Monday.

"We have issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the organisation after speaking to the (governmental) Humanitarian Aid Commission," Mohamed Farid, Sudan's attorney-general, told Reuters. He said it was for publishing a false report on rapes in the Darfur region in March.

MSF Holland released the report in March, saying its doctors working in Darfur had medical evidence of about 500 rape cases over a period of about 4 1/2 months in the region in the throes of a rebellion in its third year. Sudan denies there is widespread rape in Darfur.

The country director of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, said he had not yet received the warrant. Farid said they had to serve it to him personally and had not found him at the office as yet to do so, but they were waiting for him to return.

Farid said the authorities had asked MSF Holland several times for the evidence on which the report was based, but the agency had refused to provide this. Therefore, they came to the conclusion that the report was false.

He added Foreman would not remain in jail but would be released on bail pending the trial. But he would not be allowed to leave the country.

"If they don't give us the medical documents we will send them to the criminal court accused of publishing a false report which harms the general peace," he said. He added the maximum penalty would be three years in jail.

Foreman said he could not violate the confidential doctor-patient relationship respected around the world by giving the authorities the medical documents.

"The reports and the victims of rape are both very real and we continue to do our medical work in Darfur," he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting in Darfur and more than 2 million forced form their homes to makeshift camps around the region. Reports of rape are widespread in the conflict, and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the conflict.

Rape is a sensitive subject in Muslim Darfur, and victims are often ostracised by society.

To read MSF report on rape please go to The Crushing Burden of Rape Sexual Violence in Darfur (PDF file)

[Usually, Sudan only does such a thing to get back at something or someone. Note here below, Kofi Annan was unable to meet with Sudanese President Bashir due to "weather conditions". It had been raining there for a while. One can't help wondering if there is more to it than meets the eye. Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the country head of one of the West's most trusted and highly respected aid organisations goes so against the grain it is an act of war - in my opinion. I say this because Khartoum know exactly what they are doing because of the outrage they caused when they threatened Oxfam's boss and caused trouble with other aid agency chiefs. It is outright initimidation and bullying and they must not get away with it.]
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Reports on rapes are false, says Sudan

Here is a copy of report via Here is a copy of report via IOL: Africa May 30 2005:

Khartoum - Sudan has issued a warrant for the arrest of the country head of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report on hundreds of rape cases in Darfur, the attorney-general said on Monday.

"We have issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the organisation after speaking to the (governmental) Humanitarian Aid Commission," Mohamed Farid, Sudan's attorney-general, said.

He said it was for publishing what he called a false report on rapes in the Darfur region in March.

In the report, MSF Holland said its doctors had medical evidence of about 500 rape cases over a period of about four a half months in Darfur. Sudan denies there is widespread rape in the troubled region.
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UPDATE (1): "I'm in the process of being arrested. I'm in the car being taken to the attorney general's office," Mr Foreman, head of MSF-Holland, told the BBC News website.

Note, MSF has a significant presence in Darfur, with more than 300 international staff and 3,000 local staff treating some one million patients.
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UPDATE (2): Sudanese security detained the country head of MSF international aid agency on Monday after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest over a report on rape in Darfur, the agency said.

Sudan's attorney-general told Reuters that authorities had opened a criminal case against the Dutch branch of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report in March detailing 500 rapes over 4-1/2 months in Darfur. He said the report was false.

MSF Holland's office in Khartoum said it was not clear whether Paul Foreman, the country head, had been arrested or was being detained for questioning.
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UPDATE (3) To quote Jim's often used phrase at Passion of the Present "you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried."

Following on from the above news, a new Reuters report quotes Sudan's attorney-general, Mohamed Farid as saying:
"These kind of false reports damage the image of Sudan."
The Reuters report by Opheera McDoom also says aid agencies told visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday that they were prevented for several days from entering Kalma camp in South Darfur, Darfur's largest camp housing about 110,000 displaced. Report excerpt:

Before his detention on Monday, MSF chief Foreman told Reuters he could not violate the confidential doctor-patient relationship respected world-wide by giving authorities medical documents.

"The reports and the victims of rape are both very real and we continue to do our medical work in Darfur," he said.

Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting in Darfur and more than 2 million forced from their homes to makeshift camps around the region. Reports of rape are widespread in the conflict, and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the conflict.

Rape is a sensitive subject in Muslim Darfur, and victims are often ostracised by society.

In anonymous accounts by victims, the report described how some women were held for days, raped repeatedly and beaten. It said some victims had been arrested. Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

"These kind of false reports damage the image of Sudan," Farid said.

Farid said it was unlikely any action would be taken against the agency itself: "We need the organisation MSF to do its medical work in Sudan ... and to be present here," he said. "But it has to do its work in its specific capacity and this (report) is not within its capacity here."

Aid agencies operate under tight regulations in Sudan and often complain of harassment from local authorities in Darfur.

On Saturday, aid agencies told visiting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that they were prevented for several days from entering Kalma camp in South Darfur, Darfur's largest camp housing about 110,000 displaced.
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Sudan arrests MSF aid agency head after rapes report

Photo: Internally displaced sick Sudanese await medical treatment at an Egyptian medical centre at Abu Shouk refugee camp, home of some 100,000 refugees in Darfur May 26, 2005. (Staff/Reuters)

UPDATE (4) Sudan arrests aid agency head after rapes report

Paul Foreman, the country head of the Dutch branch of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told Reuters he had been taken to a police station and spoken to the authorities. "I am under arrest but being released on bail," he said, adding he was in good health.

MSF Holland expressed outrage at the arrest. Jeff Prescott, General Director of MSF Holland in Amsterdam, said the agency had sent lawyers and extra staff to Sudan.

"We are actually outraged. We have a large presence in Sudan and have been there for many years," he told Reuters.

Sudan's attorney-general Farid said "If they don't give us the medical documents we will send them to the criminal court accused of publishing a false report which harms the general peace." He added the maximum penalty would be three years in jail.

Farid said Foreman would not be allowed to leave the country. Full Story via Reuters.co.uk.

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