MSF Condemns Kidnapping Of Relief Worker

Operations In Chechnya, Dagestan, And Ingushetia Suspended

Geneva, 14 August 2002 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the abduction of Arjan Erkel, MSF's Head of Mission for Dagestan, in the regional capital of Makhachkala on the evening of August 12. MSF is extremely concerned about Erkel's fate and urges whoever is holding him to respect his physical and mental integrity and to release him unharmed.

Following this incident, MSF has decided to also suspend its operations in Dagestan and Ingushetia for the time being. MSF had already stopped its operations in Chechnya on July 29 in response to the kidnapping of Ms. Nina Davidovich, head of the Russian non-governmental organization Druzhba.

These consecutive kidnappings demonstrate the risks civilians and relief workers run in this conflict-ridden region. Because the position of ordinary people, particularly Chechens, is so precarious and the medical needs are great, MSF will continuously review the situation to decide whether to maintain the suspension.

Throughout the region, MSF runs mobile clinics and supports hospitals and dispensaries, providing them with medical supplies and rehabilitating surgical facilities, maternity and medical wards.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical and humanitarian assistance to victims of war, conflict and disasters. This assistance is given without political, religious or ethnic discrimination. MSF is independent and is mainly funded by public donations from the 18 countries where it has representative offices.

Further information on this incident is not available at present. For any inquiries, contact MSF in Geneva: Michel Clerc +41 22 849 84 92. Please do NOT contact our field missions in the region for security reasons.

Biographical Information on Arjan Erkel

Peter-Arjan Erkel is 32 years old and a Dutch national. Since April 2002, he has been the Head of Mission for the Swiss branch of the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian Republic of Dagestan. Erkel studied management training in Logistics (Transport Academia) and later attended Nijmegen University, graduating with an M.Sc. in Cultural Anthropology. He started working with MSF in 1994 as a logistician in Uganda. Since then, he worked as logistical and country coordinator for MSF in Tajikistan, and as project coordinator in Uzbekistan, Russia, and Sierra Leone.