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Arjan Erkel One Year as a Hostage
August 12, 2003
August 12, 2003
We would like to invite you to join us for a demonstration to show solidarity with our colleague Arjan Erkel who has been held in captivity for one full year. The event will take place on August 12, 2003, from 12:00-2:00p.m. in Ralph Bunche Park located at 43rd Street and First Avenue, across from the United Nations Headquarters. Because the abduction of Arjan Erkel is an issue of concern for all humanitarian workers, we are asking for your participation on this day of solidarity.
On August 12, 2002, Arjan Erkel, the 33-year-old Dutch head of mission with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was abducted by three unknown gunmen in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian Federal Republic of Dagestan. Russian investigators and security services personnel have recently assured MSF that Arjan is alive, and at the St. Petersburg Summit of May 2003, President Putin stated that Moscow would pursue efforts to secure the release of the aid worker. Yet, Arjan Erkel's whereabouts and condition remain uncertain, and he is still being held against his will. This is an unbearable situation for him, his family, and MSF.
Since Arjan Erkel's abduction, MSF has been in close contact with Russian and Dagestani government officials. MSF also continues to brief key national governments and the UN Security Council members about the case, asking them to hold their Russian counterparts accountable for a speedy resolution of Arjan Erkel's case. In February, MSF launched a worldwide petition, calling on President Putin to do everything in his power to secure Arjan's release. In April 2003, Arjan's father and the MSF Secretary General delivered the first 300,000 signatures to President Putin's office in Moscow. On August 12, 2003, the humanitarian community in Moscow will hold a demonstration in front of the FSB headquarters calling for accelerated efforts in the investigation of the case; the same will be done in Geneva in front of the UN Headquarters.
As of today, there are no clear signs that the case will be resolved soon. Under international humanitarian law, authorities of the host country bear the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers in their territory who are delivering assistance to civilians in need. This responsibility includes the obligation to take all necessary measures to investigate and to resolve cases of abduction.
It is alarming that the international community has allowed this intolerable situation involving a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to last for so long. Despite the increasing number of security incidents involving humanitarian workers in countries including Liberia, Ivory Coast, Iraq and Afghanistan, the members of the UN Security Council are still discussing a potential resolution condemning all forms of violence committed against humanitarian workers. Yet after more than five months of negotiations, the Council has failed so far to adopt a resolution reaffirming its commitment to the principles of safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel.
Arjan Erkel is a humanitarian worker. His work with MSF in Dagestan was aimed solely at alleviating the suffering of civilian Chechens. His safe and immediate release must become the highest political priority for the Russian government and the international community.
The abduction of a humanitarian aid worker is a matter of international concern. The future of humanitarian assistance to the victims of war in Chechnya or in other war-affected areas is at stake when violence against humanitarian workers is permitted. MSF believes that your support for Arjan Erkel is important to send a strong message to Russian authorities and the international community that this unacceptable situation should not be tolerated any longer.
Please join us on August 12, 2003 to express your concern and solidarity.
Tags: Arjan Court Case