MSF-Holland director Paul Foreman said he was arrested and interrogated on Monday and Vince Hoedt, Darfur co-ordinator for the Dutch section of MSF was arrested and questioned on Tuesday. Foreman was charged with crimes against the state, publishing false reports, spying and undermining Sudanese society. [includes rush transcript]
Sudanese authorities detained and questioned two officials of the aid group Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres this week for releasing a report that documented hundreds of rapes in the Darfur region. MSF-Holland director Paul Foreman said he was arrested and interrogated on Monday and Vince Hoedt, Darfur co-ordinator for the Dutch section of MSF was arrested and questioned on Tuesday. Foreman was charged with crimes against the state, publishing false reports, spying and undermining Sudanese society. UN Special Representative Jan Pronk told the press yesterday that the arrests were unwarranted.
- Jan Pronk, UN Special Representative to Sudan
The Sudanese government claims Medecins Sans Frontieres would not turn over evidence used in its report “The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur,” which documents 500 [five hundred] rapes in the Darfur region over a four and a half month period. MSF officials say they could not provide the personal information of people who were treated for rape because of medical privilege and confidentiality. Paul Foreman, speaking Monday.
- Paul Foreman, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Holland
A U.S. State Department spokesperson condemned the arrests and called on the Sudanese government to stop its campaign of harassment against aid workers in Darfur. In March, the United States took steps towards normalizing relations with Sudan, despite the lack of implementation of peace accords signed by the government and rebel groups. The Sudanese embassy in Washington said yesterday that neither Foreman nor Hoedt were officially arrested, but rather that they were detained for questioning and then released. We invited a representative of the Sudanese government on the show but they did not return calls. Also last weekend, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visited the Sudan and spoke confidentially with rape survivors. Annan’s translator during those sessions was asked to report to authorities several times, despite government promises that no one involved in the UN visit would be harassed. We are joined now in the studio by Nicholas Detorrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in New York City. And on the phone from Washington, we’re joined by Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department Senior Representative on Sudan. Again, we did invite the Sudanese government on the program but they did not return our calls.
- Nicholas Detorrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in New York City.
- Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department Senior Representative on Sudan.
AMY GOODMAN: U.N. Special Representative, Jan Pronk told the press yesterday that the arrests were unwarranted.
JAN PRONK: What is in the M.S.F. report is being backed and supported by me for a hundred percent. Secondly, M.S.F. is the most important, essential, crucial N.G.O. in Darfur. M.S.F., Holland, as all of the other M.S.F. have saved many lives of Sudanese people. Sudanese children, Sudanese people. What I thoroughly dislike is a smear campaign in Sudanese newspapers against people who have come here to save lives of Sudanese.
AMY GOODMAN: The Sudanese government claims Medecins Sans Frontieres would not turn over evidence used in its report, “The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur,” which documents 500 rapes in the Darfur region over a four-and-a-half month period. M.S.F. officials say they couldn’t provide the personal information of people who were treated for rape because of medical privilege and confidentiality. Paul Foreman speaking Monday.
PAUL FOREMAN: If they want to suppress the report on rape, to wait two-and-a-half months and then arrest me and accuse me of providing false information, that’s what’s happened. I’m technically under arrest, and as far as I understand from the people I have been speaking to, I’m being charged with publishing false information.
AMY GOODMAN: A U.S. State Department spokesperson condemned the arrests and called on the Sudanese government to stop its campaign of harassment against aid workers in a Darfur. In March, the United States took steps toward normalizing relations with Sudan despite the lack of implementation of peace accords signed by the government and rebel groups. The Sudanese embassy in Washington said yesterday neither Foreman or Hoedt were officially arrested but rather they were detained for questioning and then released. We invited a representative of the Sudanese government on Democracy Now! but they didn’t return our calls. Also, last weekend, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited the Sudan and spoke confidentially with rape survivors. Annan’s translator during those sessions was asked to report to authorities several times despite government promises that no one involved in the U.N. visit would be harassed. We’re joined in the studio by Nicholas Detorrente, who is the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in New York, and on the phone with us from Washington, we are joined on the phone by Charles Snyder, who is U.S. State Department senior representative on the Sudan. Welcome both to Democracy Now!
NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: Thank you.
CHARLES SNYDER: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t we start off with you, Nicholas. Tell us exactly what has happened at this point?
NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: Well, I think your news report summed it up very well. Paul Foreman, our head of mission in Sudan, was arrested and detained by Sudanese authorities. He has been since released on bail, but he has been charged with crimes against the state, and other — there are other claims made against him in connection to the report on rape that Doctors Without Borders put out in March. Our Darfur coordinator, Vince Hoedt, who was in Nyala, has been there for almost a year, has himself also been detained, brought to Khartoum and is undergoing interrogation, as well, by the prosecutor’s office.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the report that your group, Doctors Without Borders, put out?
NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: Sure, well, we have a comprehensive medical care to the people who have been attacked and displaced in Darfur, and as part of the comprehensive package of care that we offer, we offer also treatment for victims of sexual abuse and violence who come to us. Now, of course, it’s very difficult for women who have been assaulted, raped, to come forward and seek medical treatment, and we believe that we’re only seeing part of the numerous women who have been assaulted in Darfur. But in the course of our medical practice, we provide treatment and we document what has happened to them. We talk to the women, get their stories and this is essentially — this has formed the basis of the report that we put out. It covers a four-and-a-half month period from October to mid-February. It covers only part of Darfur in which we are working. We are working in North, South and West Darfur. This only covers South and part of West Darfur. But the extent of the rapes and the shocking nature of the testimonies and what happens to the victims, in particular the fact that victims do not come forward and they do not want to report the rapes to authorities. We have cases of women being arrested and detained by authorities after, charged with illegal pregnancies, for instance. You know, compelled us to come forward and tried to provide a substantial account of what’s going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is raping the women?
NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: The women report that in eighty percent of the cases, these are armed men, militia, government soldiers, who assault them, especially when they leave the camps. I mean, you have to remember that close to 2 million people have been displaced from their villages and are in camps. And when they leave the camps and try to go outside to fetch for firewood or thatch for their animals, for the donkeys and so on, that’s when they are very vulnerable to attack by the militia that continue to roam around the camps, the armed men who continue to roam around the camps, and in those circumstances they are attacked and raped. About thirty percent of them report that several men have attacked them, so multiple assailants, you know, have perpetrated these attacks.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by Charles Snyder of the State Department. Your response to the detention and also the reports of the rapes?
CHARLES SNYDER: I think the insidious part of this crisis is, you know, the violence seems to go down and instead you get chronic insecurity in the camps. You get more depredations by these militia forces, the Janjaweed, the government forces, as the Medecins Sans Frontieres rep was talking about. And this is the reason we’re pushing for additional A.U. troops to be on the ground. We need more bodies on the ground that we do trust to be neutral. The sad truth of the matter is that the government of Sudan’s police are simply not doing their jobs. I mean, it’s a horrible situation in which the protectors are in fact in some cases — we have reasonable reports — probably the perpetrators of some of this. And so, we are doing what we can about it. We have, of course, immediately sent our chargé in to protest to the Foreign Ministry, the arrests of the Medecins Sans Frontieres people. Our aid ministry itself has gone into their counterparts and protested vigorously what’s going on, and Deputy Secretary Zoellick, of course, is going out to follow up on his earlier trip. He will be there June 3. And, of course, he will bring this matter up as part of the overall pattern of continued difficulties we see in Darfur. As Kofi Annan said the other day, though, the security situation in general, in the sense of armed clashes, large groups, additional displacements, seems to be heading in the right direction, whereas this particular problem, the insecurity in and around the camps has spiked up. It’s spiked up for two reasons. One, we are actually now seeing it, because we are not distracted by this bigger pattern. But also it was there all along. We just were distracted off on the major security issues. This has now become one of our top priorities to bring this under control. There’s no way we’re going to get these people to move back a year or so from now, if we don’t show them the security situation has fundamentally changed. And when some woman literally within sight of the camp can be attacked by eight or nine men and nothing is done about it, you don’t have the kind of security that we need.
AMY GOODMAN: Charles Snyder of the State Department and Nicholas Detorrente of Doctors Without Borders, we’re going to break. We’re going to come right back you to both in a minute.