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Sudan Arrests Second Medical Aid Official

The Sudanese government Tuesday arrested a second Doctors Without Borders official over a report on rape in Darfur. This follows Monday's arrest, brief detention, and charges laid against the head of the medical aid agency's Dutch office. A news report also revealed that a Sudanese translator who was with the U.N. secretary general has been arrested.

Doctors Without Borders' regional coordinator for Darfur, Vincent Hoedt, is being transferred from the Darfur city of Nyala to the capital Khartoum.

His arrest follows that of Paul Foreman, the country director of Doctors Without Borders' Dutch office. Mr. Foreman, currently released on bail, was charged Monday with crimes against the Sudanese state.

The Reuters news agency reports that, also on Tuesday, a Sudanese national who translated the testimonies of rape victims during U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annans recent trip to Darfur was arrested. It is unclear what the translator is being charged with.

The director of operations at the medical aid agency's Dutch office, Kenny Gluck, tells VOA it is unclear what Mr. Hoedt is being charged with.

The charges against Mr. Hoedt are also unclear.

The director of operations at the medical aid agency's Dutch office, Kenny Gluck, tells VOA he thinks the arrests of his two colleagues are related to Doctors Without Borders' refusal to give Sudanese authorities confidential medicalinformation about 500 rape cases in Darfur that the medical agency described in a March report.

"One of the reasons that we felt it was necessary to inform the public and to inform the Sudanese government about rape in Darfur is that the victims were actually being prosecuted. So you had women who had been raped who are arrested and prosecuted because they had been raped. In a context such as that, we cannot share information from individuals with the police when they're being persecuted for having been the victims of a crime," he says.

Mr. Gluck says sharing details of confidential medical information is also a violation of internationally recognized medical ethics.

VOA was unable to reach Sudanese officials for comment. Sudan's attorney general, Mohamed Farid, told one news agency that information contained within the agency's March report, titled "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur," was false and damaged the image of Sudan.

Most women interviewed by the agency reported that they had been raped primarily by Sudanese solders or militiamen. The Sudanese government has denied that its soldiers engage in rape, and the report did not specify whether the militias included those from rebel groups.

The head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders, Leonard Vincent, tells VOA the arrests are the Sudanese government's way of clamping down on dissenting voices.

He says the work of journalists, who also collect confidential and sensitive information, could be made even more difficult if the Sudanese government proceeds with its charges against the medical agency, also know by its French acronym MSF.

"If the international community doesn't do anything about the MSF case, then the Sudanese who attacked MSF then will know that they can do anything they want, repress any dissident voice, with complete impunity because they can get away with it," he says.

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, Monday issued a statement urging the Sudanese government to drop all charges and that rape in Darfur, in his words, is an "incontestable fact."

Doctors Without Borders has some 180 international and several thousand national staff working in Darfur, and has treated more than 50-thousand children for severe malnutrition within the past year.

The Darfur war, which began in 2003, has killed tens of thousands of people and has displaced more than one-point-five million.