Home | News    Monday 30 May 2005

Sudan issues warrant for head of MSF aid agency

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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.

Refugees of the Sudan Darfur area wait outside the MSF field hospital in Tine seen here in January 2004. (AFP).

"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.

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

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