High Commissioner for Human Rights concerned over arrest of MSF head in Sudan

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed serious concern today over the arrest yesterday in Khartoum, Sudan, of the country head of the Dutch section of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) over a March report on rape in the Darfur region of the country.

"This is a very disturbing development," the High Commissioner said. "Rape and sexual violence are very real features of the life of the women of Darfur. This is the conclusion of our monitors, of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur and of all serious investigations into the unfolding human rights crisis in the region. MSF has done nothing more than record these horrendous crimes and try to focus critically needed attention on them," she added. The High Commissioner said targeting the humanitarian community for doing its work "will not only do a disservice to the people of Darfur, it will draw attention away from the real criminals, those who continue to rape, kill and pillage with impunity."

The High Commissioner called on the Government of Sudan to ensure that human rights and humanitarian workers are permitted to work freely and without fear of retaliation.

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Report 8 March 2005