Thursday, May 11, 2017

Has the time come for a less dogmatic approach to ransom payments?

Ex-CSIS assistant director, and now private travel security advisor, Andrew Ellis has perhaps shocked a few people with his impassioned article in today's Globe and Mail, in which he openly questions the perceived wisdom of not paying kidnapping ransoms.
Ellis, who is quite experienced in these matter from his time at CSIS, questions the widely-accepted theory - that it is unwise to pay ransoms on the grounds that it only encourages the kidnappers to strike again - and furthermore claims that there is little evidence to suggest that such a policy actually works. He quotes studies that show that there is no clear link between a country's official ransom policy and the number of its citizens taken hostage, and that countries that do pay ransoms or make concessions to kidnappers have a record of over three times the number of releases. He also alleges that government officials taken hostage are held to a different standard than private citizens, and that the official policy is not always followed (although firm evidence is hard to come by).
Canada, like the USA, Great Britain and many other countries, has a policy of non-payment by the state, and even makes it illegal for private individuals to make payment of ransom money, although the USA recently tweaked its policy and now tends to turn a blind eye to such private settlements (something I, for one, was not even aware of). All such cases present difficult ethical decisions, and one size does not necessarily fit all - compare a Mexican gang kidnapping for cash with a political jihadi kidnapping in the Middle East or Asia, for example - but how is it possible to have one policy for some situations and another for others?
Mr. Ellis counsels a more open mind and a less dogmatic approach to ransoms. This kind of seems like common sense to me, but God am I glad I'm not the one making these decisions!

No comments: