DISPARITY IN RANSOM PAYMENT POLICIES OF WESTERN DEMOCRACIES: ROOT CAUSES AND MOTIVATING FACTORS
Rezigui, Mohammed E.
Darnton, Christopher N.
Rasmussen, Maria J.
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Paying ransoms to recover hostages endangers a larger population because it funds terrorist organizations’ operations. To achieve counterterrorism strategy objectives, it is crucial that states consistently adhere to the international ban on ransom payments. Analyzing the factors that influence democracies' decisions to pay or not pay ransoms provides a better understanding of the political peculiarities that shape a state's ransom payment policy over time and influence its decision-making during a hostage-taking crisis. This thesis examined twenty abduction cases involving nationals of four Western democracies (France, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom) that occurred between 2001 and 2015. This thesis’ findings demonstrate that public opinion and media perception of ransom payments are the most compelling factors influencing decision-makers. Also, policy legacies of paying or rejecting ransoms affected the political leaders of these four Western democracies. In addition to better preventing kidnappings, states should enact ransom payment bans through domestic laws and policy directives, which would likely constrain decision-making and alleviate public pressure. Moreover, educating the public and media about the greater risk created by ransom payments and the publicity given to kidnappings will help shape public opinion in favor of a ransom payment ban.
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