MSF volunteer in Colombia freed

Médecins Sans Frontières volunteer, Ignacio de Torquemada, freed unconditionally

Bogota, 30th January 2001 - After being held captive for six months, Ignacio de Torquemada was freed on January 28, 2001. Ignacio, a French volunteer, was taken hostage on July 25, 2000 by the Ejercito Revoluncionario Guevarista (ERG). No ransom was paid for his release. Ignacio de Torquemada was released by the ERG in the region of Santa Cecilia, not far from where he was kidnapped. He managed to reach Puebo Rico and from there he was able to telephone the MSF team in Bogota. Ignacio de Torquemada, a laboratory technician, was working in a medical assistance project based in the Tado Hospital, Choco. He was taken captive whilst travelling from Tado to Bogota in a vehicle that was clearly marked MSF. The ERG immediately announced that they were responsible for the kidnapping. During all its contacts with the ERG, MSF repeatedly explained the implications of this act on future aid programmes, the purpose of humanitarian action as well as the Colombian population's right to indiscriminate access to quality health care, access that depends on the respect of humanitarian actors. Despite the joy of being reunited with our friend in good health and our relief that he can at last return safe and sound to his family, we cannot forget the plight of thousands of Colombians who have been kidnapped, as well as the suffering of the civilian populations exposed to daily violence in this country. "We see this unconditional release as a positive sign for the intervention of impartial humanitarian action for the benefit of the civilian population affected by this internal conflict" declared Guillermo Bertoletti, programme manager in Colombia. Médecins Sans Frontières would particularly like to thank Ignacio de Torquemada's family for their unwavering courage and trust. We would also like to thank the French authorities for their help and all those in Colombia who have worked directly or indirectly for this release. MSF, an independent humanitarian medical organisation, is running health care programmes, along with water, hygiene and sanitation projects, for the civilian population affected by the internal conflict in Cali, Soacha as well as in the provinces of Caqueta, Putumayo, Cordoba, Sucre, Bolivar and Magdalena Medio.