Home | News    Tuesday 7 June 2005

MSF asks Sudan to drop charges against two employees

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By MARIAM FAM

CAIRO, Egypt, June 6, 2005 (AP) — A Medecins Sans Frontieres official who traveled to Sudan to urge the government to drop charges against two employees of his aid group said he was hopeful of a resolution, although no assurances had been made.

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Paul Foreman

MSF Operations Director Kenny Gluck met officials from a number of ministries, including the foreign and health ministries, during his Thursday to Sunday visit to Sudan.

"We are hoping to see the charges dropped in the coming days," Gluck said in a phone interview from Amsterdam. "We haven’t received any promises yet."

Last week, MSF’s head in Sudan, Paul Foreman, was arrested and charged with spreading false information. A day later, a Dutch worker with the group, Vincent Hoedt, was arrested in Darfur. Both men were later released on bail.

Gluck said the charges against the MSF workers apparently stemmed from an MSF report documenting alleged rape cases in the troubled western region of Darfur.

He said he spoke with the officials "about the rationale behind the report of sexual violence."

"We explained some more in-depth about our work in Sudan." he told The Associated Press in Cairo.

There was no immediate comment from the Sudanese government about the visit.

Gluck said the two men have returned to work. "We’re still running projects but it’s just the mission is affected when there are criminal charges pending."

On Wednesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman said his government had reached an agreement with the United Nations over the fate of the two aid workers, raising expectations that charges could be dropped.

MSF issued a report in March saying its doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over 4 1/2 months. The report said more than 80 percent of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia.

Sudan’s government denied the claims.

More than two years of conflict in Darfur has killed an estimated 180,000 people, many from war-induced hunger, and displaced nearly 2 million.

The conflict erupted when rebels in the western region took up arms against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin. The government is accused of responding with a counterinsurgency campaign in which government-backed Arab militiamen known as Janjaweed committed wide-scale abuses — including killings, rape and arson — against the African population.

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