More than 75 experts are taking part in an online forum this April on how to better prevent and manage terrorist kidnapping and hostage-taking cases. Training, the protection of victims, and the role of media are topics particularly in focus at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) event running April 4 – 15 2016.
While many hostage-takers focus on global recognition as their ultimate aim, psychologists such as Dr. Helen McGrath say the activity is about more than a big ego, it’s a “really distinct pattern of behavior and thinking."
McGrath of Deakin University, and author of Why Did They Do It? Inside the Minds of Australia’s Most Unlikely Killers, says that hostage-takers and kidnappers are often delusional and use terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State as a prop to achieve their goals.
The OSCE forum targets state officials, humanitarian organizations, and companies operating in risk areas, as well as professionals and businesses that have a role in this field. It acknowledges that kidnapping and hostage-taking are incredibly traumatic events, which often push the victims, their families, employers, and governments to the limit.
Working with the family of a hostage is a key component in the overall management of a hostage crisis. Kjell Lauvik, Chief of Security Operations at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, added that “there are significant short- and long-term psychological effects, both for the hostage and the family, that need to be addressed.”
Social media may significantly complicate handling of the terrorist kidnapping and hostage-taking, often hindering the pursuit of successful and safe resolutions. “One innocent tweet or status update on Facebook can provide invaluable data to a potential kidnapper,” said Jem Thomas, Director of Training and Innovationat Albany Associates. “Online media strategies also enable militants to put direct pressure on corporations, humanitarian agencies, security services and governments.”
Thomas Wuchte, Head of OSCE Anti-Terrorism Issues, said that “terrorist kidnapping and hostage-taking are to be combated from all angles, but mainly combating violent extremism that lead to terrorism, strengthening preparedness and resilience, and implementing the international legal framework and commitments.”
This online forum is part of a series of activities being organized by the OSCE following a declaration by the organization’s 57 participating states in 2014 on the OSCE Role in Countering Kidnapping and Hostage-taking Committed by Terrorist Groups in the Context of the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2133.
Individuals interested in sharing their relevant experience in the online forum should register at http://polis.osce.org , adding a short note explaining their motivation. The OSCE notes that the forum is only open to a select audience and all applications for participation will be reviewed.