The BBC reports on conflict between the Dutch government and Médecins Sans Frontières (or Doctors Without Borders for non-Francophones) over the release of Arjan Erkel, who was kidnapped in Dagestan (which is next to Chechnya). After spending more than a year as a hostage, Erkel was released in April. I almost posted about him when the release occurred because of the possibility that Russian security forces stood by at the time of his kidnapping. However, it seems that his release was also not what it seemed:

His release was initially hailed as a successful Russian police operation, but the Dutch government revealed in May that the Russian negotiators had paid a ransom which it provided.

It publicly demanded the repayment of the $1m from MSF, which has played a leading role in foreign aid work in the North Caucasus.

The MSF statement on the issue seems to suggest that the Dutch government was all too willing to settle the matter by throwing a million dollars at it, only deciding after Erkel's release to confront MSF. Not surprisingly, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is planning on taking legal action, is telling a different story:
The Ministry wishes to point out that MSF's allegations that the Ministry conducted the negotiations on Arjan Erkel's release are untrue. MSF used an intermediary to negotiate on its behalf with the kidnappers, and the necessary arrangements were set down in a contract with the 'Veterans'. A representative of MSF Switzerland was involved in these negotiations in Moscow. He didn't just follow what was going on, but was present when Arjan Erkel was released.

The BBC article reports that there was an "oral agreement" between the Ministry and MSF that MSF would repay the million dollars used to secure Erkel's release. I am slightly suspicious of the government claims, as I do not see why it was necessary for the government to "advance" the money to Erkel's captors.

There is also the issue of the lack of public disclosure about the ransom. Of course, one could argue that keeping it secret would have the dual advantages of not increasing the number of foreign kidnappings in the Caucasus while freeing Erkel. Personally, if I was ever kidnapped, I would not want a million dollars to be paid to the people who were holding me hostage. Then again, I have probably absorbed too much of the "We do not negotiate with terrorists" rhetoric evident in Hollywood action films and the current Presidental administration.

Speaking of terrorism, the increasingly dangerous situation in Saudi Arabia continues to worry me. I would like to take time to point out the Saudi Arabian blog "The Religious Policeman," which I find quite insightful.