Médecins Sans Frontières has just learnt with great satisfaction of the judgement handed down by the Court of First Instance of the Republic and Canton of Geneva concerning the case brought against it by the Netherlands Government. This lawsuit involved the reimbursement of a ransom paid by the Netherlands authorities in April 2004 for the release of Arjan Erkel, the MSF head of mission, held hostage in the North Caucasian region for over 600 days.

The Netherlands government claims to have acted on MSF's behalf. The court has unequivocally refused this claim, thus obliging the government to take public responsibility for its acts.

This verdict supports the organization's stance, upholding its version of events presented since the beginning of proceedings.

The decision is also a source of considerable relief in that it rejects the Dutch government's attempt to damage MSF by denying de facto the public usefulness of its provision of assistance to populations in need.

Despite the positive judgement, MSF can only condemn the methods used by the Netherlands authorities to resolve this affair, and regrets that so much time and energy had to be consecrated to the management of these proceedings, well after the release of Arjan Erkel.

Faithful to its principles, MSF continues and will continue in the same spirit of solidarity to provide aid to populations in need, in the Caucasian region and elsewhere in the world, in complete independence and impartiality.

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