Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Aid workers arrest by Sudanese junta

The government of Sudan has been widely accused on sponsoring militias who are committing genocide in the western region of Darfur. Gen. Omar al-Bashir's regime has consistently denied that the allegedly government-sponsored genocide amounts to anything more than a little bit of lawless banditry.

Curious then that, rather than arresting the 'lawless bandits,' the regime has decided to go after a pair of humanitarian workers, whose job was to save Sudanese lives. The director of the Sudan branch of Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) were arrested on charges of spying and spreading false information. Another leading MSF official, a Dutchman, in Sudan was also arrested and has not yet been charged.

The two were arrested following an MSF report detailing mass rape and other widespread human rights' abuses in Darfur. Many Sudanese believe western aid workers have given information on alleged human rights abuses in Darfur to the United Nations, which has passed a sealed list of 51 war crimes suspects, reports the BBC. No mention on why aid workers SHOULDN'T do so.

The United Nations' Sudan envoy Jan Pronk denounced the politically-motivated arrests and the 'smear campaign' by the Sudanese media. "MSF Holland and all the other MSF have saved many lives of Sudanese people."

The state crime prosecutor said [the Dutch MSF prisoner] had failed to hand over evidence on which the report on rape was based.

A spokesman for MSF Holland defended the refusal to hand over details because women "made pregnant as a result of rape outside wedlock can be arrested by the authorities" in Sudan, which operates strict Islamic sharia law.

The arrests were deplored.as 'totally unacceptable' by the head of MSF Holland. "The arrest of two senior co-ordinators severely undermines our ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The people of Darfur, who have been through so much already, must not be allowed to suffer as a result of these actions."

And of course he's right. The arrests are even more despicable because MSF and other organizations are cleaning up the mess caused in large part by none of than the Sudanese government... the very regime that arrested them.

Update: Following widespread international condemnation, the Sudanese regime has reportedly released the aid workers


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