After the UN security resolution on the safety of aid workers, MSF presses Russia to secure Arjan Erkel's release

New York, August 27, 2003 - Following the unanimous adoption of a resolution on the protection of humanitarian aid workers by the UN Security Council, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) presses Russia to take decisive action in implementing the resolution by securing Arjan Erkel's immediate and safe release. Arjan Erkel, a volunteer for the international medical humanitarian aid organization, has been held hostage in the North Caucasus since his abduction in Dagestan on August 12, 2002.

"While it is important that the Security Council has sent a strong political signal that attacks against humanitarian aid workers will not be tolerated," said Dr. Morten Rostrup, President of MSF's International Council, "all member states must hold President Putin accountable for allowing Arjan's intolerable captivity to go on for more than a year."

Aid workers have increasingly become targets of violence in many conflicts where attackers aim to make a political point by preventing them from providing assistance and raising awareness about the plight of civilians in distress. The UN Security Council and member states need to urgently respect the neutral and independent character of humanitarian action and clearly distinguish it from their political activities. Concrete actions must be taken to uphold the fundamental principle that all civilians in need, whoever and wherever they are, are entitled to protection and assistance. Humanitarian organizations must also maintain an independent, impartial and neutral character in their aid activities.

"Attacks on humanitarian aid workers are of critical international importance. Such violence is devastating for civilians in need of assistance because the ability to deliver aid is dramatically curtailed," Dr. Rostrup continued. "But aid workers will not be safe unless warring parties and the UN's member states stop misusing humanitarian aid to advance their political interests. The growing insistence on making aid a tool in responding to crises endangers the lives of humanitarian aid workers."

More important than adopting the resolution is for all UN members to hold every state accountable for acting in accordance with the Resolution's terms.

"Russia adopted this resolution," said Dr. Rostrup, "and yet it continues to evade its responsibility to secure Arjan Erkel's immediate and safe release. Two Russian officials were even present when Arjan was kidnapped and they did nothing to prevent or stop it. The UN Security Council has allowed this intolerable situation involving one of the Council's permanent members to go on for far too long. Every state in the UN must raise Arjan's case with President Putin. It's not enough to make a statement. The resolution requires President Putin to demonstrate clear results to immediately bring Arjan's captivity to a safe end. Now is the time for action."