International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

IMRE BEKES

The Legal Problems of Hijacking and Taking of Hostages

In the decade following World War II, new forms of behavior appeared and spread to the field of criminality. Airplanes were diverted, and both passengers and crew were subjected to terrorism. Diplomats were kidnapped and held as hostages compelling governments to make decisions whether or not to pay for their lives and release. Bombs were exploded on busy streets, in department stores, at railway stations, in amusement places, and entire buildings were destroyed. During the last decade, these actions became an epiphenomenon of regional wars and other international conflicts. But they also showed themselves in civil wars and in some other social, political, and religious conflicts within states as methods and means of belligerent activity.

The circle of potential victims has constantly widened because terrorists have captured and taken as hostages not only diplomats but ordinary citizens without influence. Kidnappings and assassinations became a way of expressing political power. As we know from experience, victims of these terrorist attacks were innocent civilians, diplomats, members of international boards, members of international civil air crews, members of international mass media services, members of nonbelligerent armed forces, or members of nonbelligerent governments. Simultaneously, kidnapping has appeared in countries free of civil war or other armed crisis, such as Italy, and has become a lucrative form of criminality. Similarly, since 1951, not only political motives but ransom have played a part in some hijackings.

This diversity of motives has made it more difficult to understand these actions. The political question has been raised whether or not hijacking, kidnapping, or assassination aimed at helping rational and justifiable national goals should be considered as legitimate national wars or struggles for freedom. If the answer is affirmative, the terrorist should be regarded as a hero instead of a criminal. If terrorism can be conceived by the law as a political crime, there should be no extradition. The terrorist who escapes to another country should be granted political asylum. Acceptance of this conception would lead us to perceive hijacking, kidnapping, and assassination as common crimes or as political crimes according to the motives of the offender.

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