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Hostage Judith Tebbutt is Freed; but Should We Be Paying Ransoms?

Posted on the 22 March 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Hostage Judith Tebbutt is freed; but should we be paying ransoms?

Freed hostage Judith Tebbutt. Watch the video below.

Judith Tebbutt, a 56-year-old social worker, has been released from captivity in Somalia. She was kidnapped from a resort on a beach in Kenya and held hostage for six months, and is now about to return home to Britain. Her faimly paid pirates a ransom of £800,000, plus £20,000 to cover the pirates’ cost in keeping her. Her husband, David, who worked for publishing firm Faber & Faber, was shot dead. Judith Tebbutt was not aware that this had happened for some time. The private security firm Control Risks negotiated with the pirates, reported the BBC, as the Foreign Office does not help with ransom payments if the group is not a terrorist group. David Jones on The Daily Mail said that Judith Tebbutt seemed in “remarkably good spirits.” Though her six months’ confinement had obviously taken its toll – and she will probably have “suffered untold traumas that will lay buried deep in her psyche for weeks or months.”

“We treated her like a human being, not an animal. She was like our guest. It was only about the money,” said one of the kidnappers, quoted on The Daily Mail.

Purely after money. The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, said that the British government had convened a crisis meeting within hours of the abduction, and about 20 were held throughout her captivity. But the people holding her were Somali pirates – “purely after money” – not the “extremist insurgency group, al-Shabab.” So Judith’s son Oliver (who, according to The Daily Mail, is 25) had to hire Control Risks. It’s a contrast to the “failed hostage rescue” by British Special Forces in Nigeria – but there, the hostages were held by “an extremist group with links to al-Qaeda.”

What about other hostages? Sky News’ Africa editor Nick Ludlam said there were still “hundreds of other hostages” who get “little or no media attention.” They’re “crew from huge from huge freight and container ships,” or people like the “working class” Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz, who were kidnapped 73 weeks ago. The family, despite an appeal, has not been able to raise the cash: the pair have “little hope of being released any time soon.”

The trials of negotiating. Ben Lopez, a hostage negotiator, in The Scotsman analysed the negotiations, and said that the captors had shown they “weren’t to be trifled with.” Negotiating is tricky, and the best that can be done is to reduce risks. Time is “important”, too – they don’t have clocks, for instance. You also have to “manage the perceptions of the kidnappers”.Often it’s more complicated dealing with “governments, policiticans, companies, or other members of the family” than it is with the kidnappers. Governments don’t want to be “seen to negotiate, and most governments will not negotiate or get involved at all.” “It’s horrible, it’s ruthless, but there’s no other way.”

Should we be paying ransoms? The problem is, said The Times’ editorial, that now this ransom has been paid, it “risks putting a still bigger price on the heads of others.” We should “rejoice” that Tebbutt has been released. But this must be “stained with regret that her freedom was engineered as a result of her family” paying the ransom. It’s an “unpalatable precedent.” We should show kidnappers that crime doesn’t pay. It might look cold, but it’s “the only way to spare others.” Handing over the money makes “a vicious cycle” which spurs on “more piracy” and gives “pirates the financial resources to expand their operations.” The irony is that David Cameron said, to the London Conference on Somalia last month, that it was time to stop paying ransoms.


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