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U.S. Department of State 
95/10/17 Fact Sheet: International Terrorism-American Hostages
Bureau of Public Affairs

                                 FACT SHEET
                International Terrorism: American Hostages 
The U.S. Government will make no concessions to terrorists holding 
official or private U.S. citizens hostage. It will not pay ransom, 
release prisoners, change its policies, or agree to other acts that 
might encourage additional terrorism. At the same time, the United 
States will use every appropriate resource to gain the safe return of 
American citizens who are held hostage by terrorists. Hostage-taking is 
defined under international law (International Convention Against the 
Taking of Hostages, adopted December 17, 1979) as the seizing or 
detaining and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain a 
person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing any 
act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the seized 
or detained person. 
It is internationally accepted that governments are responsible for the 
safety and welfare of persons within their borders. Aware of both the 
terrorist threat and public safety shortcomings in many parts of the 
world, the United States has developed enhanced physical and personal 
security programs for U.S. personnel and has established cooperative 
arrangements with the U.S. private sector. It also has established 
bilateral counter-terrorism assistance programs and close intelligence 
and law enforcement relationships with many nations to help prevent 
terrorist incidents or to resolve them in a manner that will deny the 
perpetrators benefits from their actions.  
The United States also seeks effective judicial prosecution and 
punishment for terrorists and criminals victimizing the U.S. Government 
or its citizens and will use all legal methods to these ends, including 
extradition. U.S. policy and goals are clear, and the U.S. Government 
actively pursues them alone and in cooperation with other governments 
The U.S. Government believes that paying ransom or making other 
concessions to terrorists in exchange for the release of hostages 
increases the danger that others will be taken. Its policy therefore 
rejects all demands for ransom, prisoner exchanges, and deals with 
terrorists in exchange for the release of hostages. At the same time, it 
will make every effort, including contact with representatives of the 
captors, to obtain the release of the hostages. 
The United States strongly urges American companies and private citizens 
not to pay ransom. It 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. 
The U.S. Government is concerned for the welfare of its citizens but 
cannot support requests that host governments violate their own laws or 
abdicate their normal law enforcement responsibilities. On the other 
hand, if the employing organization or company works closely with local 
authorities and follows U.S. policy, U.S. Foreign Service posts can 
actively pursue efforts to bring the incident to a safe conclusion. This 
includes providing reasonable administrative services and, if desired by 
the local authorities and the American organization, full participation 
in strategy sessions. Requests for U.S. 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. 
If a U.S. private organization or company seeks release of hostages by 
paying ransom or pressuring the host government for political 
concessions, U.S. Foreign Service posts will limit their participation 
to basic administrative services, such as facilitating contacts with 
host government officials. The host government and the U.S. private 
organization or citizen must understand that if they wish to follow a 
hostage resolution path different from that of U.S. Government policy, 
they do so without its approval or cooperation. The U.S. Government 
cannot participate in developing and implementing a ransom strategy. 
However, U.S. Foreign Service posts may maintain a discreet contact with 
the parties to keep abreast of developments. 
Under current U.S. law 18 USC 1203 (Act for the Prevention and 
Punishment of the Crime of Hostage-Taking, enacted October 1984 in 
implementation of the UN Convention on Hostage-Taking), seizure of a 
U.S. national as a hostage anywhere in the world is a crime, as is any 
hostage-taking action in which the U.S. Government is a target or the 
hostage-taker is a U.S. national. Such acts, therefore, are subject to 
investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to prosecution 
by U.S. authorities. Actions by private persons or entities that have 
the effect of aiding and abetting the hostage-taking, concealing 
knowledge of it from the authorities, or obstructing its investigation, 
may themselves be in violation of U.S. law. 
OCTOBER 17, 1995 


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