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KidnapInside the Ransom Business$
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Anja Shortland

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198815471

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198815471.001.0001

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Why Do Hostages Die?

Why Do Hostages Die?

(p.185) 10 Why Do Hostages Die?

Anja Shortland

Oxford University Press

Every hostage negotiation has the potential to end badly—yet almost all insured criminal kidnaps end with a safe hostage release. This chapter analyses under what circumstances abusing or killing hostages is a rational choice. It shows how private sector negotiators shape kidnappers’ pay-offs to encourage cooperative behaviour. When a kidnapping gang is reclassified as terrorist, the parameters of bargaining change substantially. Putting well-resourced but nervous and inexperienced civil servants in charge of negotiations results in the escalation of ransoms. Murder and torture for reputation drives up the prices for hostages from nations whose governments are willing to engage with terrorists. The UN ban on ransom payment therefore has unintended and counterproductive consequences.

Keywords:   strategic use of violence, criminal versus terrorist, politics, UN ban on ransom payments, unintended consequences

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