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After 18 Months of Captivity, Arjan Erkel Still Missing

Ongoing violence limits relief efforts to thousands of displaced people

Moscow/New York, NY, February 12, 2004 - One-and-a-half years after the abduction of Arjan Erkel, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply concerned by the failure of the Russian authorities to bring about a positive resolution of his case. MSF believes that the absence of any progress in the case is a clear indication that a firmer political commitment is needed by the Russian Federal and local authorities to ensure the safe release of Arjan.

"The Russian authorities have repeatedly expressed their commitment to solve this case, but so far this has yielded no concrete results. The recent arrest of the investigator in charge of the Arjan's case only further erodes MSF's confidence in the investigation. Therefore, we urge the Russian authorities to live up to their commitment and secure Arjan's safe release," said Dr. Rowan Gillies, MSF International Council President.

Arjan Erkel, a 33-year-old Dutch national who had been working with MSF since 1994, was abducted on August 12, 2002, by three armed men in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, a Russian republic.

Over the last eighteen months, MSF has repeatedly received reports that Arjan is alive. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Ivanov, gave the most recent confirmation on October 13, 2003, during an official visit to Switzerland. However, since then there has been no indication that any progress has been made that would lead to Arjan's release.

Recent statements by international and humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Parliament, and statements, in particular, by Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, have indicated that the release of Arjan Erkel would increase confidence in security for humanitarian workers in the region.