July 27, 2000

International Medical Aid Organization Calls for Immediate Release

Bogota, 28 July 2000 — A volunteer working in Colombia with the international medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was abducted last Tuesday, 25 July, in the Department of Choco. The volunteer, a French citizen, was working as a laboratory assistant for a humanitarian aid project operated by MSF in the municipality of Tado (Department of Choco).

The abduction occurred while the MSF volunteer was driving from Tado to Bogota in a car which was clearly identifiable as an MSF vehicle. He was stopped between Guarato Department of Choco, and Santa Cecilia, Department of Risaralda. The captors claimed to be members of the Guevarist Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Revolucionario Guevarista, or ERG).

"We call for the immediate release of our colleague, and ask that nothing should be done that could threaten his life or physical safety," said Guillermo Bertoletti, program officer for the mission in Choco. "Moreover, we appealled to the Colombian Minister of the Interior to avoid any action that could endanger the life of our colleague."

MSF runs a primary health-care project in the rural area of Tado. The aim of the project is to facilitate access to health care for the population. The organization's activities include mobile teams that bring preventive and curative medical assistance to the villages throughout the municipality.

Médecins Sans Frontières is a non-governmental organization that delivers medical aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural or man-made disasters, without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed, or political affiliations.

"People should not have to decide on whether to relocate based on an empty stomach," says Felicitas Ibanez-Llado, MSF Head of Mission in Angola. "People are fleeing rural areas to seek safety in the town centers and should not be forced to move back to an insecure area because they are not receiving enough food."

MSF's medical assistance is based on the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence from all political, economic or religious powers.