Geneva/Moscow - On August 12th, it is one year since Arjan Erkel, an MSF humanitarian volunteer, was abducted in Makhatchkala, capital of Dagestan, a Republic of the Russian Federation. MSF expresses its indignation about the lack of results in the Erkel case. "It is a scandal that, after one year, our colleague Arjan Erkel is still missing. This can only be attributed to the mishandling of the investigation and a lack of commitment by Russian authorities," said Dr. Morten Rostrup, International President of MSF.
"The presence of two intelligence agents at the scene of the abduction, and the fact that they stood by while Arjan was kidnapped, should surely increase their motivation to resolve this case. However, to our dismay, the investigation was halted in November 2002 and only reopened in May 2003. We were not told of this but instead authorities kept assuring us they were doing everything to secure Arjan's release."
During the St. Petersburg Russia/EU summit in May 2003, President Putin made public assurances to the Dutch Prime minister to deploy Russian services in order to resolve the case - but no results have been forthcoming to date. MSF believes that the Russian authorities must again be reminded of their legal responsibility to redress the situation.
MSF is also disappointed by the reserved attitude of the Dutch government towards the Russian political authorities in this regard. More generally, the support provided by the international community, in particular key Western governments, lacked intensity.
Rostrup said: "it is difficult to understand why governments have been so reluctant over the past year to hold the Russian authorities accountable for their lack of commitment in resolving this case." For MSF, Arjan Erkel is a symbol of "humanitarianism at risk" in the Northern Caucasus.
The whole humanitarian community has become a hostage to the climate of violence and insecurity prevailing in the region. MSF asks today that Russian authorities and the international community multiply their efforts in order to bring back Arjan to his family, friends and colleagues.