May 27, 2008

Geneva, May 27, 2008 — The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounces the relentless attitude of the Dutch government, which has pursued the organization in courts since July 2004. The Netherlands demands that MSF reimburse the government for ransom paid to free Dutch citizen Arjan Erkel, MSF head of mission who was held hostage for 600 days in the northern Caucasus and was released in April, 2004.

Geneva courts have twice denied the Dutch government’s claims that it was acting on behalf of MSF and have rejected its arguments. The first ruling was issued on March 15, 2007 by the Court of First Instance of the Canton of Geneva and the second, on appeal, on February 22, 2008, by the Civil Court of Justice.

The decision to submit the matter to the Federal Court, Switzerland’s highest court, demonstrates the Dutch Government’s relentlessness in pursuing MSF through the legal system.

“Taking this matter to the Federal Court, after four long years of legal proceedings that ruled against the Dutch, reveals a troubling determination,” says Isabelle Ségui-Bitz, president of MSF-Switzerland. “The process the Dutch government is pursuing completely contradicts its public support for humanitarian activity in conflict areas.”

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