What's In Blue

Posted Fri 24 Jan 2014

Adoption of a Resolution on Terrorist Kidnapping for Ransom

On Monday (27 January), the Security Council is set to adopt a draft resolution proposed by the UK calling on states not to pay ransom to terrorist kidnappers. The negotiations for the draft resolution, which was circulated in early December, were halted following difficulties agreeing on particular issues with some elected members who were then on the Council. Three rounds of negotiations were held in December 2013 and three more took place in January which appear to have gone more smoothly. The draft resolution was put under silence until Tuesday (21 January) afternoon and went into blue that same day.

The draft resolution is aimed at operationalising the 18 June 2013 communiqué adopted at the Lough Erne G8 summit under the UK’s G8 presidency which called for discussions at the UN on new mechanisms to increase international awareness of the threat of kidnapping for ransom by terrorists, and for consideration of further UN Security Council resolutions to address and mitigate the threat. In a concept note circulated to Council members, the UK estimates that in the last three years Al-Qaida affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups have collected more than $70 million in foreign-national ransom payments, an average of $2.5 million per foreign hostage.

Along these lines, the draft resolution expresses the Council’s concern “at the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups with the aim of raising funds, or gaining political concessions, in particular the increase in kidnappings by Al-Qaida and its affiliated groups, and underscoring that the payment of ransoms to terrorists funds future kidnappings and hostage-takings which creates more victims and perpetuates the problem”.

The draft resolution, which was not expected to impose new obligations on member states, reaffirms resolution 1373, in particular its decisions that all states shall prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts and refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts. The draft also calls on all member states to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or from political concessions and to secure the safe release of hostages.

The draft resolution also encourages the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee to hold a special meeting to discuss measures to prevent incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups to raise funds or gain political concessions. In addition, it also calls upon member states to continue expert discussions on kidnapping for ransom by terrorists within the UN and other international and regional organisations.

It appears that there were several issues that needed to be resolved during the negotiations. The sudden tabling of the issue and speed at which the negotiations began in December took some Council members by surprise. Some of these members felt that more time was needed, particularly as they had had difficulty when this topic had been raised in previous resolutions. Apparently the penal codes of these members do not include the payment of ransom as a crime. It seems these members were wary of the resolution linking common criminal practices in their countries, which they consider unrelated to terrorism, with the agenda of the Security Council. As the negotiations got bogged down, the UK ultimately decided to postpone further consultations and await the renewal of the composition of the Security Council on 1 January 2014.

In addition, in order to satisfy those who were keen to restrict the scope of the draft resolution the possibility of mentioning particular countries or regions (like Yemen or the Sahel) in the preamble was discussed. However, in the end the draft only addresses concern over “the increase in kidnappings by Al-Qaida and its affiliated groups”.

Another issue that came up in the negotiations was how to refer to the G8 communiqué or to the work of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. Although the original proposal was to welcome these decisions, some Council members that do not take part in these meetings wanted to just take note of them, which was formula agreed to in the end. Also, language noting the final document of a 2012 summit of the Non-Aligned Movement was later added.

Council members also argued over the reference to protecting the lives of hostages in the draft resolution. While some Council members wanted to give “full” consideration to the protection of their lives, a permanent member proposed changing it to “due” consideration, arguing only the latter was a legal term. Following bilateral negotiations, “careful” was agreed on as a compromise.

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