Amsterdam, February 8, 2001 — At a press conference held in Moscow today, released aid worker Kenneth Gluck, head of mission for the North Caucasus operations of the international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), related details of his kidnapping, captivity, and release. Gluck, 39, was abducted by armed individuals while traveling in an unarmed humanitarian convoy near the village of Starye Atagi in Chechnya on January 9.
Gluck described being held in a dark basement for part of his captivity and passing the time listening to the radio, reading, and worrying over the fate of his co-workers and his own release. "Gratefully, I was never gagged, beaten or tortured in any way during my period in captivity," said Gluck. "I was always given three meals a day and always had enough to eat."
After being driven in a car blindfolded, Gluck was released on Saturday, February 3 in the village of Starye Atagi. Throughout the nearly month-long period that Gluck was held, MSF was never contacted by anyone claiming to be Kenny's kidnappers, nor were any demands made.
"It was a complete and happy surprise to learn of Kenny's release," said MSF executive director Austen Davis. "This incident is a personal tragedy for Kenny, his family and many others," Davis continued. "It is also a tragedy for the doctors and nurses who continue to carry out surgical operations in Chechnya and provide assistance and care to the sick and wounded, despite the harsh conditions, without supplies and pay. They deserve our respect and support, but as a consequence of this incident all humanitarian assistance was put on hold."
MSF reiterates its serious concern with the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of people in Chechnya and those who fled Chechnya to Ingushetia.
MSF will now begin the process of re-evaluating the role the organization will play in the delivery of aid in the region. Whether MSF continues to work in the Northern Caucasus or not depends both on its capacity to do so effectively and on the conditions for access and provision of help.
MSF calls on all parties to the conflict to re-affirm their commitment to humanitarian action and to create the conditions in which humanitarian actors can provide help and care without threats or restrictions, and with free access to evaluate the needs and to monitor the programs. Without the assistance of independent humanitarian actors MSF is very concerned that the availability and access to care will be further reduced.
Gluck plans to return to New York for a reunion with his family and friends.