Hostages and ransom – is it right or wrong to pay up?

June 27, 2012, 3:21 PM GMT+0

Ever considered how you would react if someone you knew was kidnapped abroad? And would your stance on paying ransoms change if it was one of your own who was kidnapped?

We invited you to give the subject some thought, and share your views on hostage situations and ransom payments.

We asked you to tell us your views on whether it is right or wrong, on principle, to pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages.

  • Of those who took part in the discussion, an overwhelming proportion thought it was wrong to pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages, arguing that it would encourage more kidnappings.
  • A much smaller proportion of participants said that paying ransoms was the right thing to do if it meant potentially saving someone’s life.

We also asked, if a person was taken hostage, either from your own family, or a close friend, would you pay a ransom to secure their release if you could afford to do so?

  • Of those who said it is wrong to pay ransoms, about a third still said they would pay if it was their own family or a close friend who was being held.
  • A large proportion were adamant that they would not pay a ransom even if it was someone close to them who was kidnapped.
  • And many said they simply weren’t sure whether or not they would pay the ransom.

Finally, we wanted to know your opinions on whose responsibility it was to help secure the release of hostages kidnapped abroad: the UK Government, the government of the country where they were kidnapped, or the hostage’s family.

  • You were pretty evenly split between it being the UK Government, or the government of whatever country the hostages were kidnapped.
  • Only a very small proportion of you thought it was up to the hostage’s family.

Do you think ransoms should be paid?

And how confident are you in your Government’s ability and willingness to help if something were to happen to you abroad?

Q: Do you think it is right or wrong to pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages, on principle?

NO, it is wrong to pay

  • Participants who were against ransoms being paid to secure the release of hostages, argued that paying would just encourage more kidnappings.

“Whilst we must do what we can for the victims, paying ransoms only encourages repeat hostage taking. Instead, we should bear down on the hostage-takers immediately and with the full force available to usJohn T, Canterbury

It encourages further abductions to occur, and not all families are in a position to payAnon

It is rewarding criminality. You should never under any circumstances endorse criminal behaviour” Ken, Portsmouth

“While it is understandably a horrible position to be put in, paying ransom money validates the practice of ransoming to those who do it, and only encourages them to continue it. Personally, I would be utterly devastated were someone close to me kidnapped and ransomed back to me, but I simply could not justify paying such a ransom because I wouldn't want someone else to suffer the same pain because the money I paid funded another kidnappingAnon

“You don’t negotiate with hostage-takers because it just puts more people in danger. Strong action should be taken against anyone who does pay out money to these people; perhaps prosecution would stop this reckless behaviour. Every time someone pays out, another person is put in dangerAnon

YES, it is right to pay

  • Those of you who thought a ransom should be paid said that everything possible should be done to save human lives, even if paying is wrong on principle.

“I think that it's right to pay ransoms. I understand the view that you should not give the people holding others ransom 'what they want', but I don't think money is more important than a human life. You can't put a price on a loved oneRose, Somerset

If there is any chance we can get someone back we should take it, even though it is wrong on principleAnon

It is necessary rather than right. In an ideal world, ransoms would not be paid, but life is more important than money, so it is justified” Rachel, North Yorkshire

If it was a member of my family being held hostage I would like to think that the Government would go all out to recover one of their citizens alive and wellH, Lowestoft

“Because believe life is precious, and I wouldn't want to be abandoned to die in the name of not giving-in to kidnappers Anon

If a loved one was abducted you would do anything to get them home, including paying a ransomMarina C, Northern Ireland

Q: Who has greatest responsibility to secure the release of UK citizens who are taken hostage outside of the UK?

'It's up to the UK Government to help the hostages'

The hostage is a citizen of the UK Government and thus, the Government is responsible for them. Also, the ransom may be too high for the family of the hostage to afford, and it is unlikely that the Government of the foreign country will put in as much effortAnon

If the Government has suitable diplomatic arrangements with the country concerned it should not be a big problem for them to secure the release of a hostageAngie P, Dorset

As our Government, they are elected to represent and look after us. They (usually) have diplomatic links to the country, which most families wouldn't have. The types of countries where hostages are taken usually have unstable governments who cannot be relied upon to guarantee safety of freshly released hostages” Anon

I don't think it's fair to expect family members to have to secure the release of their loved one, especially if they're disadvantaged and don't have the resources to do so. I believe the UK Government should negotiate with the other country's government, but ultimately, the UK should value its citizens and know to how deal with a crisisRose, Somerset

When travelling abroad, one expects one's Government to look out for themAnon

The Government should take the lead in attempts to resolve the situation because they can be detached from emotional factors, are likely to have the best contacts and understanding of the situation, and will need to temper their decisions according to what is best in the long term (if only they would) for other citizens in future” Hugh M, Glasgow

'It's up to the government where the hostages were kidnapped to help secure their release'

It's their citizens who are engaged in crimes. They have a responsibility to stop themAndy G, Somerset

It is the responsibility of all governments to maintain law and order within their own borders. If a UK citizen is kidnapped in a foreign country, it reflects badly upon that country's reputation and the UK should cease doing business with that government unless that government fulfils its obligations to maintain law and order by ensuring that all persons legitimately present within their borders are safe from harm” Michael T, Shropshire

The protection of the public is always the responsibility of the country in which the crime is committed. The British Government should be prepared to do what it can to assistBarbara D, Northwich

It has more inside knowledge regarding the kidnappers and they can face justice in their own country if they are caught. The government in that country has a responsibility to look after visitors to their country” Ann, Belfast

It should fall on their shoulders. They know the mind-set of the rebels, therefore they should sort them outNeill, Surrey

Do you think ransoms should be paid?

And how confident are you in your Government’s ability and willingness to help if something were to happen to you abroad?