President Putin Called On To Fulfill Obligation To Ensure the Release of Abducted MSF Aid Worker Arjan Erkel

UN Members Urged to Hold Russian President Accountable for Resolution of the Case

New York, September 24, 2003 - As world leaders meet at the United Nations General Assembly this week, the independent humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls upon President Vladimir Putin to live up to his obligation to ensure the release of Arjan Erkel, the MSF volunteer abducted on August 12, 2002 in the Russian republic of Dagestan. MSF also urges all UN member states to hold the Russian leader accountable for the resolution of the case.

For more than a year, Russian officials have assured MSF that they were working on Erkel's case. In spite of this, there has been no substantial evidence of action taken by the Russians to find and free Arjan.

In August 2003, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1502 on the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, reiterating the responsibilities of host countries. Arjan Erkel, however, is still in captivity, and threats and violence to humanitarian workers in Russia's Northern Caucasus region have increased. On September 12, a general warning about kidnappings brought humanitarian aid to a standstill in Ingushetia, home to 80,000 displaced Chechens.

"If the newly adopted UN resolution on the safety and security of aid workers is to have any meaning, President Putin must live up to his responsibility under international law to find and free Arjan and allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need in the Northern Caucasus," said Dr. Morten Rostrup, MSF International Council President.

MSF strongly urges President Putin to use his speech before the UN Assembly on Thursday, September 25 to reaffirm his commitment to implement the Resolution 1502 and therefore to secure Arjan's release. MSF also urges the other member states of the United Nations to live up to the principles of Resolution 1502 by ensuring that President Putin will urgently mobilize all necessary resources to secure Arjan's release.

"By allowing Arjan's case to remain unresolved, the Russians are undermining their own credibility in the face of the international community. So far, international efforts to hold Russia accountable have been insufficient. World leaders must send a strong message to Russia that Arjan's release must be secured immediately," stated Dr. Rostrup.