Arjan Erkel, Abducted Six Months Ago in Dagestan, Is Still Missing

MSF calls on the Russian and Dagestani governments to give his case highest priority

Moscow/Geneva, February 12, 2003 -- Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International President, Dr Morten Rostrup, announced at a press conference today in Moscow that the absence of contact from Arjan Erkel's abductors, six months after his abduction, leads MSF to believe that the non-resolution of this kidnapping may have a political dimension. Despite the efforts of the Russian and Dagestani law enforcement agencies over the past six months, Arjan is still missing and MSF doesn't even know if he is alive.

Arjan Erkel, Head of Mission of MSF in the Northern Caucasus, was abducted by three unidentified gunmen on August 12, 2002, in Makhachkala, capital of the Federal Republic of Dagestan.

MSF demands that President Putin and the Chairman of the Dagestani State Council, Mr Magomedov, do not treat Arjan's investigation as just any criminal case.

"It is imperative that the Russian and Dagestani governments live up to their obvious responsibility to solve this case: That means treating it with the gravity it deserves. The Russian authorities have proven in the recent past that they can successfully solve such cases," said Dr. Rostrup.

The investigations carried out in Dagestan, under the supervision of the Federal authorities, have yielded no significant results. The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, the Prosecutor of the Republic of Dagestan and the security services have so far not provided MSF with any information on why and by whom Arjan was abducted.

Today, exactly six months after Arjan was abducted, MSF launches a worldwide petition to address our message to President Putin and to the Chairman of the Dagestani State Council, Mr Magomedov.