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Aegis Condemns Sudan’s Arrest of MSF Head

Protect Darfur Campaign , 31 Mai 2005

The Aegis Trust, the UK-based genocide prevention agency responsible for the Protect Darfur campaign, unreservedly condemns yesterday’s detention by the Sudanese Government of Paul Foreman, head of the Dutch wing of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). His arrest occurred due to Sudanese objections regarding an MSF report on rape in Darfur. Foreman was charged with crimes against the state, and ordered not to leave the country, before being released on bail.

"Aegis places great confidence in MSF, which is doing outstanding humanitarian aid work in Darfur," says Dr James Smith, Aegis Chief Executive. "It is characteristically cautious about publishing information unless it has certainty about the evidence. Its work with victims of rape and its report documenting systematic rape in Darfur during the crisis is extremely valuable. This is yet another attempt by the Government of Sudan to obstruct and intimidate those providing humanitarian relief to civilians at risk, and to put fear into civilians who may interact with foreign agencies.”

The Sudanese authorities are demanding MSF provide the evidence of over five hundred rape cases documented by their medical staff. Breaching the confidentiality of these women could place them at risk or cause them to be stigmatised in their community. Over eighty percent of the raped women identified Sudanese soldiers or Arab Janjaweed militia as the attackers.

The African Union should support MSF

Foreman's detention happened on the same day that UN envoy Jan Pronk reported an improvement in the situation in Darfur . “This latest belligerent act of the Sudanese authorities should be seen as a warning sign that while there may be growing calm in the region, all is far from well,” says Dr Smith. “Less fighting and fewer aerial attacks have been interpreted as a sign of cooperation from the Sudanese authorities, but there are fewer civilian targets to destroy now, as most black Africans in Darfur are within IDP camps.

"The African Union, which is leading the international protection mission in Darfur, will certainly have documented episodes of rape itself, even though women are far less likely to report to the AU police than they are to medical practitioners. The AU should strongly support the aid agencies currently relying on it for security."

Many, including Aegis, have recorded accounts of rape that corroborate MSF’s report on the plight of rape victims and scale of rape in the region. One woman’s account, which we have permission to publish, can be read in Aegis’ latest dossier on Darfur, recently sent to UN Security council members (see online).