MSF Head of Mission in Dagestan remains missing after 100 days - efforts by authorities fail to secure release
20 November 2002
Geneva, Moscow – 100 days have passed since Arjan Erkel, Head of mission of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Dagestan, a Russian republic neighbouring Chechnya, was abducted by unidentified gunmen in Makhachkala. Despite efforts by the Russian authorities to secure his release, Arjan remains missing. Although 100 days have passed since the abduction of Arjan Erkel on August 12th, MSF and his family still have no information as to his whereabouts or as to why and by whom he was kidnapped. Efforts by the Russian authorities to solve the case have yielded no results so far, leading MSF to be deeply concerned about his fate. MSF has informed international donor countries to the Northern Caucasus of its concern for Arjan and that of Nina Davydovich, the head of Druzhba, a Russian NGO, as well as the recent brief kidnapping of two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers, and reminded them that when planning humanitarian aid they should not forget the plight of detained workers as this causes obstacles to the delivery of assistance. Morten Rostrup, the International President of MSF welcomed the release of the two ICRC workers on Sunday. He said: “their speedy release is a positive example of how political pressure can resolve these matters quickly. In this light, MSF urges the Russian authorities to maximize their efforts to secure the safe release of Arjan Erkel.” MSF suspended operations in Chechnya after the abduction on July 27 of Nina Davydovich, and in the Northern Caucasus on August 12 after Arjan’s kidnapping. MSF had been providing health care to thousands of displaced Chechens and more than 50,000 Dagestani people were benefiting from improved access to health care through MSF’s mobile clinics, and the provision of drugs and medical equipment to several medical structures. On September 12, MSF decided to resume its activities in Ingushetia. This decision was taken for the sake of the thousands of Chechen displaced persons and Ingush civilians in the republic who were in need of assistance after nearly a month of a suspension of activities. Activities in Dagestan and Chechnya continued to be suspended. In Chechnya, however, MSF continues to provide direct life saving assistance in case of emergencies, which includes cooperation with surgical and maternity units. In order to monitor developments, MSF offices in Makhachkala, Khazaviurt and Grozny remain open. Today, on the 100th day of Arjan’s captivity, MSF once again demands from Arjan’s and Nina’s abductors that they respect their physical and mental integrity and release them unharmed. MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical and humanitarian assistance to victims of war, conflicts and disasters. This assistance is given without political, religious or ethnic discrimination. MSF is independent and is mainly funded by public donations from the 18 countries where it has representative offices.