U.S. will make no concessions to hostage-takers

FROM STAFF REPORTS


   U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday the U.S. government will make no concessions to individuals or groups holding official or private U.S. citizens hostage.
   "The United States will use every appropriate resource to gain the safe return of American citizens who are held hostage. At the same time, it is U.S. government policy to deny hostage-takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes, or other acts of concession," Boucher said.
   The announcement of the new policy comes on the heels of the abduction last month of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi, Pakistan.
   While it is internationally accepted that governments are responsible for the safety and welfare of persons within their borders, U.S. officials are aware of both the hostage threat and public security shortcomings in many parts of the world, Boucher said. As a result, the United States has developed enhanced physical and personal security programs and established cooperative arrangements with the U.S. private sector. It also has established bilateral assistance programs, close intelligence and law enforcement relationships with other nations to prevent hostage-taking incidents or to resolve them in a manner that will deny the perpetrators benefits from their actions.
   Based on past experience, making concessions that benefit hostage-takers increases the danger that others will be taken hostage, Boucher said.
   "U.S. government policy is, therefore, to deny hostage-takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes, or other acts of concession," he said. At the same time, the government will make every effort, including contact with representatives of the captors, to obtain the release of hostages without making concessions.
   American companies and private citizens are urged not to accede to hostage-taker demands. Boucher said the government believes that good security practices, relatively modest security expenditures, and continual close cooperation with embassy and local authorities can lower the risk to Americans living in high-threat environments.
   If the organization or company works closely with local authorities and follows U.S. policy, U.S. Foreign Service posts can be involved actively in efforts to bring the incident to a safe conclusion. Requests for government technical assistance or expertise will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
   "The full extent of U.S. government participation must await an analysis of each specific set of circumstances," Boucher said.
   Private U.S. organizations or citizens who wish to follow a hostage resolution path different from that of U.S. policy do so without government approval, according to Boucher. In the event a hostage-taking incident is resolved through concessions, the United States would pursue investigation leading to the apprehension and prosecution of hostage-takers.
   Under current U.S. law enacted October 1984, seizure of a U.S. citizen as a hostage anywhere in the world is a crime, as is any hostage-taking action in which the government is a target. Such acts are subject to investigation by the FBI and prosecution by U.S. authorities.
   Private persons or entities that aid or abet the hostage-taking, conceal knowledge of it from the authorities, or obstruct investigation may themselves be in violation of U.S. law, Boucher said.