Speech by MSF Secretary General at Arjan Erkel petition handover
2 April 2003
We are here to hand over part of the 339,069 signatures collected around the world and in Russia and the Caucasus to demand to President Putin to secure the release of Arjan Erkel. Part of the signatures are still coming to Moscow and will continue over the next few days. You may ask why did we launch this petition. Almost eight months have pased and even though we have been told that the criminal investigation is on the way, what is the result? Information is inconsistent and MSF and the family remain in a state of unbearable ignorance. To put it simply, Arjan is neither with us nor do we have evidence of where he is. We are therefore here to voice our concern to President Putin to provide the political support to secure his release. Let me remind you of one thing, Arjan is a humanitarian worker. His aims and those of our organization are to alleviate the suffering of civilian populations without any political agenda. And this is as good and pertinent in the Caucasus as it is in Baghdad where MSF is working around the clock with Iraqi doctors. It is in this sense that we consider this kidnapping a hostile act towards independent humanitarian action. We cannot separate this kidnapping from the environment he was working in. Permanent insecurity in the Caucasus is a political problem which does not only affect civilians but also extends to humanitarian workers. That is why we cannot accept that this case is simply left in the hands of investigators. Is it that the President does not want to use his power to address the security in the area? Is it that the international humanitarian presence is not appreciated or not even wanted? So far, we have only silence to these questions from the federal authorities. In particularly, from the president's office. We consider this attitude does not facilitate the possibilities of his releases, it also raises doubts. It is in that sense that we urge to President Putin to show clear commitment and support. The release of Arjan can only be possible if a strong political will is shown. So far it is non-existent.