Dutch fail to recover ransom funds

A Geneva appeals court has rejected a bid by the Netherlands to recover €1 million (SFr1.6 million) from non-governmental organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.

This content was published on February 28, 2008 - 21:13

The Dutch authorities brought the unusual civil case against the NGO's Swiss section, whose Dutch employee Arjan Erkel was kidnapped in Russia's Caucasus region of Dagestan in August 2002, and freed 20 months later after a ransom was paid.

The dispute turned on if the Netherlands had the right to reclaim the funds made available to MSF. The Dutch claimed to have advanced the money with the understanding it would be repaid.

MSF has said it was the first time a democratically elected government had sued an international humanitarian organisation to recover money used to pay a ransom.

"We hope that this decision will put a definitive end to this affair, which is harmful for humanitarian action," Isabelle Segui-Bitz, president of MSF-Switzerland, said in a statement on Thursday.

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