Fate of Doctors Without Borders' Arjan Erkel Still Unknown

The International Committee of the Red Cross, or the ICRC, has once again appealed to kidnappers to release Arjan Erkel, the head of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, who was kidnapped in Dagestan on August 12, 2002. Nothing has been heard of him since. According to the ICRC Office in Moscow, the organization "expresses solidarity with Doctors Without Borders and with Erkel's friends and relatives." Beginning August 2002, the ICRC repeatedly appealed to kidnappers to release Erkel immediately and unconditionally.

A source in the ICRC stressed that international humanitarian law forbids the taking of hostages among civilians. Besides, said the source, "humanitarian organizations working in the North Caucasus have to function in dangerous circumstances" and "kidnapping threats tell on their ability to help people in Chechnya and adjacent republics." "Safety is still No.1 issue for every humanitarian organization functioning in the region," said the source.