Aid workers arrested over Darfur rape report
31 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — Two high-profile members of the Dutch division of Doctors without Borders have been arrested in Sudan, just weeks after the volunteer aid group released a report about the widespread rape of women in the crisis region Darfur.
31 May 2005
AMSTERDAM — Two high-profile members of the Dutch division of Doctors without Borders have been arrested in Sudan, just weeks after the volunteer aid group released a report about the widespread rape of women in the crisis region Darfur.
British national and the Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) chief in Sudan, Paul Foreman, was arrested on Monday and released on bail that night. He is reportedly "outraged".
A second AzG worker, Vincent Hoedt, was arrested on Tuesday morning and is being taken to the Sudanese capital Khartoum. He is responsible for the aid group's activities in Darfur. AzG had expected his arrest.
A Sudanese public prosecutor said the government was angered by an AzG report in March alleging hundreds of rapes in the Darfur region.
But an AzG spokeswoman in Amsterdam was "very shocked and outraged" by the incident. "It is our mandate to speak out about human rights violations. This is too crazy for words," she said.
The spokeswoman said Foreman is accused of undermining Sudanese society by publishing an incorrect report.
Dutch Overseas Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne has promised to question the Khartoum government about the incident.
"If the organisation (AzG) comes across abuses, they must be exposed," she said.
Van Ardenne will also request that the UN envoy for Sudan, Dutchman Jan Pronk, raise the matter with the Sudanese government.
The Sudanese prosecutor said the AzG report was nothing but lies, and he denied AzG claimsthat mass and systematic rapes are taking place in Darfur.
The arrests are the first such action taken against an aid organisation since reports of violence and a refugee crisis started to emerge from Darfur in 2003.
Sudan said AzG had to consult with the government prior to publishing the report, claiming it asked the group on multiple occasions to provide evidence.
On that basis, justice officials believe the claims are false — a penalty that carries a maximum three-year jail term.
AzG chief Foreman said he is refusing to hand over medical documents because they are protected under the medical profession's privacy code.
The AzG report included accounts from raped women reporting to clinics or other aid groups in Darfur. AzG emergency aid co-ordinator Ton Koene said the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg.
Arab militias, police officers or soldiers are alleged to be carrying out the rapes. Police lock up raped women on charges of criminality and use them as sex slaves, the report claims.
AzG said the Sudanese government is not directly responsible for the rapes, but said immunity should be scrapped and the culprits brought to justice. The government was immediately critical of the report when it was published.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news