International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages
New York, 17 December 1979
  • Introductory Note
  • Procedural History
  • Documents
  • Status
  • Photo
By Ben Saul*
Professor of International Law,
University of Sydney, Australia

EnglishEnglish

18 September 1979 - Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York. A general view of the opening of the meeting. (Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant)1. Historical Context

The impetus for the negotiation of the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages (“Hostages Convention”) was the proliferation of hostage-taking in the 1970s. In September 1976, the Federal Republic of Germany (“Germany”) proposed that the drafting of a convention to address the problem should be included on the agenda of the thirty-first session of the United Nations General Assembly (A/31/242). Hostages had recently been taken at the German Embassy in Sweden in April 1975, resulting in the loss of two lives. Other prominent seizures of hostages around that time included an incident at the Vienna headquarters of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in December 1975 and an aircraft hijacking at Entebbe airport in Uganda in June 1976 (Joseph Lambert, Terrorism and Hostages in International Law: A Commentary on the Hostages Convention 1979, pp. 2-3).

In explaining its proposal for a convention, Germany stated that hostage-taking for any purpose was “abhorrent and inhuman”, and “absolutely intolerable and incompatible with universally accepted standards of human conduct” (A/31/242, para. 5). It was said to infringe basic values upheld by the United Nations, namely the dignity and fundamental rights of every individual, including the rights to life, liberty and security of person in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (ibid., para. 5). Germany further warned that hostage-taking threatened international peace and transnational relations (ibid., para. 1).

While hostage-taking was already prohibited under international humanitarian law (see Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, article 34 (in international armed conflicts); Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article75(2)(c) and (e) (in international conflicts); four Geneva Conventions of 1949, common article 3(1)(b) (non-international armed conflicts); and Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article 4(2)(c) (non-international conflicts)), including as a war crime (see Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, article 146, and Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article 85(5) (both concerning international conflicts); subsequent to the Hostages Convention, see also Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, article 8(2)(a)(viii) and (c)(iii)), there was not yet any international instrument addressing hostage-taking outside armed conflict. Nor did the few existing “sectoral” anti-terrorism conventions adequately address the problem, since they were confined to specific contexts such as aircraft safety or harm to internationally protected persons (Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, 1970; Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, 1971; and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, 1973). Other norms of general international law too were insufficient; for instance, rules on the inviolability of diplomatic premises and personnel did not cover other victims, criminalise the perpetrators, or impose obligations directly on non-State actors for whom no State can be held responsible.

The General Assembly referred the German proposal to the Sixth Committee (A/31/430), which recommended establishing an ad hoc committee (of 35 State members) to draft a convention, and the General Assembly agreed in a resolution of 15 December 1976 (General Assembly resolution 31/103). The creation of a new committee was in part designed to avoid the ideological deadlock which had developed in the existing Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism, established in 1972 and in place until 1979, over the definition of “terrorism” (including “State terrorism”), its causes, and debate over the legitimacy of national liberation violence. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages met in three sessions in 1977, 1978 and 1979 (its mandate was renewed in General Assembly resolutions 32/148 and 33/19).

Hostage-taking persisted during the negotiations, further emphasising the need for a convention. Incidents included the hijackings of a German airliner to Somalia in 1977 and an Egyptian aircraft to Cyprus in 1978, as well as the protracted occupation of the United States Embassy in Tehran from November 1979 to January 1981 (United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran)). Attention was also drawn to hostage-taking in armed conflict during the contemporaneous negotiations on Additional Protocols I and II to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, both adopted in 1977 (Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article 75(2)(c) and (e) and article 85(5) (in international conflicts); and Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article 4(2)(c)).

2. Significant Developments in the Negotiating History

The drafting of the convention proceeded on the basis of a German working paper (“Working Paper”) (A/AC.188/L.3). The proposal deliberately avoided reference to the politicized term “terrorism” (see Clive Aston, “The United Nations Convention Against the Taking of Hostages: Realistic or Rhetoric?”, pp. 139-140). Instead, the Working Paper modelled the draft convention on the existing sectoral anti-terrorism conventions, which strongly influenced the negotiations and the final instrument.

Some States felt that a convention should fill the gaps in and supplement the existing legal framework without duplicating, disturbing or derogating from existing instruments, including the sectoral treaties and the Geneva Conventions (A/32/39, p. 20 (Mexico), p. 22 (Canada), p. 54 (France) and p. 35 (Lesotho)). However, no provision was ultimately included in the Hostages Convention concerning its relationship with other sectoral treaties (A/34/39, p. 18). Article 12 provides only that the Convention shall not apply to certain hostage-taking in armed conflicts covered by international humanitarian law.

The essential elements of hostage-taking were relatively uncontentious in the drafting. The most contested issue was whether the convention should apply to national liberation movements which, depending on how one approaches the issue, is a question of either definition or an exception to the definition. Many African and Eastern-bloc States preferred that the convention not apply to national liberation movements, as it “must above all protect the rights of a people which engaged in violent action against colonialist, racist, alien régimes in order to regain its legitimate rights or redress an injustice which it had suffered” (A/32/39, p. 30 (Algeria)). On this view, it was essential that a convention did not delegitimize national liberation movements (ibid., p. 28 (Yugoslavia) and p. 35 (United Republic of Tanzania)) or impede their struggle for self-determination (ibid., p. 76 (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)). On the other hand, Western States insisted that the convention should apply to all hostage-taking, since such violence was “inadmissible in all cases” and no matter how just or noble the cause (ibid., p. 55 (United States of America) and p. 20 (France)).

The controversy reopened a debate which had apparently been settled with adoption of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions in 1977, which absolutely prohibit hostage-taking “at any time and in any place whatsoever, whether committed by civilian or by military agents” (Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, article 75(2)(c)). Self-determination movements too were covered by those prohibitions, whether as parties to an international conflict (under Additional Protocol I) or in non-international conflicts (under Additional Protocol II). Some of the States which supported the Additional Protocols nonetheless argued for a liberation exception in the context of a hostages convention.

There was thus a proposal to exclude from the definition of hostage-taking “any act or acts carried out in the process of national liberation against colonial rule, racist or foreign régimes, by liberation movements recognized by the United Nations or regional organisations” (A/AC.188/L.5). Germany expressed concern that such an exception “would be interpreted as relieving liberation movements of their obligations under international law” (A/32/39, p. 70 (Federal Republic of Germany)).

A related suggestion introduced the concept of the “innocent hostage” (A/C.6/31/SR.58; and A/32/39, p. 27 (Jordan), p. 36 (United Republic of Tanzania) and p. 38 (Egypt)), which implied a subjective distinction between innocent and “guilty” captives, with only the former entitled to protection. The suggestion did not gain wide support. A further proposal defined hostage-taking as “the seizure or detention, not only of a person or persons, but also of masses under colonial, racist or foreign domination” (A/AC.188/L.9), but this definition, aimed at the conceptually different harm of State colonial repression, also did not attract support.

The impasse over liberation movements was resolved in part through a procedural move at the second session of the Ad Hoc Committee to establish two working groups, the first to examine “thornier questions” (including national liberation) (A/33/39, pp. 5 and 56), and the second to consider less controversial matters (ibid., p. 7). Working Group I eventually secured the agreement of many developing and developed States alike that, regardless of the cause, “no one should be granted an open licence for taking hostages” (ibid., p. 5).

Such consensus was achieved partly because of an apparent concession, in article 12, to exclude from the application of the Convention certain hostage-taking in armed conflicts “in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist régimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination” (A/AC.188/L.6). Such exclusion does not, however, imply that hostage-taking by liberation movements is permitted, but only that it is dealt with by international humanitarian law rather than the Convention when humanitarian law imposes a prosecute or extradite obligation. It remains an offence for “any” person to commit hostage-taking under article 1 of the Convention and there is no exception for any actor (State or non-State) or cause, including liberation movements in peacetime or in armed conflicts where hostage-taking is not covered by an obligation to prosecute or extradite under humanitarian law (On such circumstances, see Lambert, op. cit., pp. 263-298).

Another contested issue in the drafting concerned the transboundary use of force to rescue hostages, in the wake of a controversial Israeli operation at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. A number of African and Arab States insisted that “States shall not resort to the threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or independence of other States as a means of rescuing hostages” (A/AC.188/L.7 and A/32/39, p. 62 (United Republic of Tanzania)). Other States felt that such a provision was unnecessary (A/34/39, p. 7). An article was eventually adopted based on compromise language proposed by the Syrian Arab Republic in 1977 (A/AC.188/L.11). Article 14 provides that the Convention itself cannot authorise the use of force. It does not, however, preclude or alter the application of the international law on self-defence, insofar as that law may apply to hostage rescue situations (On which, see Lambert, op. cit., pp. 316-322. The question was not before the Court in relation to United States rescue operation in Iran: see Tehran Hostages case, op. cit., paras. 93-94).

Also contentious was a proposal by Mexico, supported by other Latin American States, that the convention should not impair the right of asylum (A/AC.188/L.6 and A/32/39, p. 21 (Mexico)). Some Western States objected that such a provision was unnecessary because States enjoyed the right to choose between extradition or local prosecution, and so retained the option of granting asylum (A/32/39, p. 53 (United States of America) and p. 93 (Federal Republic of Germany)). Working Group I was unable to agree on the issue; it was resolved later by a Sixth Committee working group in 1979, though some Latin American States were dissatisfied with the final article (A/C.6/34/SR.62, p. 5 (Ecuador, Venezuela) and p. 12 (Cuba)). Article 15 preserves the right of asylum under “Treaties on Asylum”. Also, the Convention does not require States to treat hostage-taking as extraditable non-political offences, despite proposals from some States that it should (A/C.6/31/SR.55, p. 9 (Australia)).

In relation to the obligation to prosecute under article 7, the Netherlands suggested that prosecution should only be required if extradition were refused, since it would be unreasonable to expect the State of custody to prosecute if no other State, including the State in which the offence was committed, wished to prosecute (A/32/39, p. 89 (Netherlands) and A/AC.188/L.14). It was objected that such a provision could create a loophole in the system and that a “no safe haven” approach should be preferred (A/32/39, p. 89 (United States of America) and p. 93 (Federal Republic of Germany)), and the qualification was not included (ibid., p. 16).

A proposal to widen jurisdiction under article 5, to allow member States of an international organisation subject to demands by hostage-takers to assert jurisdiction (A/AC.188/L.3), was not adopted (A/33/39, p. 10 and A/AC.188/L.14). It was pointed out that if the United Nations was subjected to demands, virtually every State would have jurisdiction over the offence (A/32/39, p. 78 (Mexico). For the debate, see also A/32/39, p. 84 (United States of America), pp. 84-85 (Japan), p. 93 (Federal Republic of Germany); A/33/39, p. 39 (Netherlands), p. 40 (United Kingdom) and p. 44 (Canada)). A different French proposal to permit passive personality jurisdiction was also debated but eventually included (A/34/39, p. 12. For the debate, see A/33/39, p. 39 (Netherlands) and A/AC.188/L.13). It was not, however, agreed to recognise jurisdiction over serious violent acts related to hostage-taking offences (A/33/39, p. 39 (Netherlands) and A/34/39, p. 12).

In relation to penalties for hostage-taking under article 2 of the Convention, there was debate about whether penalties should be “severe” or “appropriate” (A/32/39, p. 80 (Netherlands), p. 85 (Denmark) and p. 92 (Federal Republic of Germany)) in order to sufficiently punish and deter offenders. The compromise was to require “appropriate penalties [for the offences] which take into account their grave nature” (A/33/39, p. 9 and A/34/39, p. 11). A proposal for mitigation of penalties where hostages were voluntarily released was contentious and not accepted (A/AC.188/L.8 and A/33/39, p. 30 (United Kingdom), p. 31 (Sweden) and p. 32 (United States of America)).

The draft convention concluded by the Ad Hoc Committee was submitted to the General Assembly (A/34/39), which referred it to the Sixth Committee. The draft was considered by a working group comprised of the same States that had constituted the Ad Hoc Committee (A/C.6/34/L.12), and then by the Sixth Committee between 27 November and 7 December 1979. The General Assembly adopted the Convention without a vote on 17 December 1979, annexed to resolution 34/146. The Convention was opened for signature at New York on 18 December 1979. The Convention entered into force on 3 June 1983.

3. Summary of Key Provisions

18 September 1979 - Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York. A general view of the opening of the meeting. (Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant)

The preamble to the Hostages Convention declares that “the taking of hostages is an offence of grave concern to the international community”. It also highlights the Convention’s role in furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security and promoting friendly relations and co-operation among States; and in securing the rights to life, liberty and security of person as recognised in the UDHR and ICCPR. While the preamble also describes “all acts of taking of hostages as manifestations of international terrorism”, it is clear from the definition of offences in article 1 that hostage-taking is an offence even if it involves compulsion for private rather than political purposes (see United States v. Rodriguez 587 F.3d 573 (2d Cir 2009)).

Article 1 of the Hostages Convention defines the offences of hostage-taking, attempted hostage-taking, and complicity in hostage-taking. There is, however, no offence of threatening to commit hostage-taking (Lambert, op. cit., p. 83). According to article 1, paragraph 1, the offence of hostage-taking is committed by:

Any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure or to continue to detain another person (hereinafter referred to as the “hostage”) in order to compel a third party, namely, a State, an international intergovernmental organization, a natural or juridical person, or a group of persons, to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage …

There is no requirement that force be used to take hostages as long as force is threatened. Article 2 requires States parties to make the above offences “punishable [in domestic criminal law] by appropriate penalties which take into account the grave nature of those offences”.

There are two important limitations on the scope of application of the offences. First, the Convention only applies to hostage-taking which has a transnational element and does not apply to purely domestic acts. Thus article 13 provides that the Convention “shall not apply where the offence is committed within a single State, the hostage and the alleged offender are nationals of that State and the alleged offender is found in the territory of that State”.

Secondly, pursuant to article 12, the Convention does not apply to hostage-taking committed in armed conflicts governed by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Additional Protocols of 1977, where such laws already require States “to prosecute or hand over the hostage-taker”. The Hostages Convention could still apply to hostage-taking by liberation movements committed in armed conflicts involving a State not party to Additional Protocol I, since then only common article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions would apply and it does not impose a prosecute or extradite obligation.

States must establish prescriptive jurisdiction over the offences in accordance with article 5, which invokes the territoriality, nationality, passive personality, and (treaty-based) universality principles. Specifically, mandatory jurisdiction must be established by a State in relation to offences committed (i) in its territory or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State; (ii) by its nationals; (iii) to compel the State to do or abstain from doing any act; or (iv) where the offender is present in the State’s territory and the State declines to extradite. In addition, a State may optionally establish jurisdiction over stateless persons who are habitually resident in its territory, or where a hostage is a national of the State. The Convention does not, however, prioritize or otherwise resolve valid competing jurisdictional claims by different States.

The Convention is built around the “extradite or prosecute” (aut dedere aut judicare) principle that is common to many of the sectoral anti-terrorism conventions. As a first step, under article 6 a State has a duty to apprehend an alleged offender in its territory, to facilitate prosecution or extradition, and the State must conduct a preliminary inquiry into the facts. States parties must also afford one another “the greatest measure of assistance” in connection with criminal proceedings, including by supplying all necessary evidence (article 11, paragraph 1).

Under article 8, paragraph 1, if the State of custody does not extradite the alleged offender, “without exception whatsoever” it must submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution. It is not, therefore, a duty to prosecute, but a duty to consider prosecution “in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a grave nature under the law of that State”. The Convention does not establish any priority between local prosecution or extradition.

In either case article 8, paragraph 2, recognises a suspect’s right to be “guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings”, including “all the rights” under local law. Persons taken into custody also enjoy a right to communicate with the nearest representative of their State of nationality or habitual residence (article 6, paragraph 3). A State claiming jurisdiction is also entitled to invite the International Committee of the Red Cross to communicate with and visit the alleged offender (article 6, paragraph 5).

The Convention facilitates extradition by deeming the Convention’s offences as extraditable offences in any existing extradition treaty between States parties (article 10, paragraph 1). States parties also undertake to include such offences in every extradition treaty concluded between them. Where no extradition treaty exists between relevant States, the requested State may elect to treat the Hostages Convention as the legal basis for extradition (article 10, paragraph 2). The Convention may also serve as the basis for extradition where national law does not require an extradition treaty (article 10, paragraph 3). Article 10, paragraph 4, provides that the Convention’s offences shall be treated as if they had been committed not only in the place they occurred but also in the territories of States required to establish their jurisdiction by the Convention.

National law continues to govern the preconditions of extradition to the extent not modified by the Convention. Thus, for instance, States which refuse to extradite their nationals may continue not to do so; or States could still insist on satisfaction of the “specialty” rule (namely, that an extradited person can only be extradited to face the charge for which extradition was requested). The State must then submit the case for prosecution.

The Convention contains important safeguards in respect of extradition. An extradition request must be refused if it was made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion, or if the person’s position would be prejudiced for such reasons; or if a person cannot communicate with the State entitled to diplomatically protect him or her (article 9, paragraph 1).

Unlike a few later sectoral anti-terrorism treaties, the Hostages Convention does not “depoliticise” its offences by requiring States not to treat it as a non-extraditable “political offence” under national law (see also Lambert, op. cit., p. 233). Article 15 expressly preserves the right of asylum under the “Treaties on Asylum”, as between States parties to those treaties. The asylum treaties are not specified and it is unclear whether it also includes the Refugee Convention of 1951 (Article 1F(b) of the Refugee Convention excludes from refugee status a person in relation to whom there are serious reasons for considering he or she has committed a serious non-political crime. Some acts of hostage-taking may thus be regarded as non-political under both international refugee law and certain national extradition laws. Criminal law defences must still be considered, such as pleas of duress or necessity which mitigate responsibility for an offence).

It is therefore conceivable that the extradition of an alleged offender may be refused on the basis that the conduct constitutes a “political offence” under national extradition and/or asylum law. The case must still then be submitted to the competent local authorities for prosecution. National legal systems may then take the political nature of the offence into account in various ways, such as in exercising the discretion whether to prosecute or in mitigation in sentencing.

The Convention contains various procedural obligations in relation to the criminal process. A State must notify affected States, through the United Nations Secretary-General, where an alleged offender is taken into custody (article 6, paragraph 2) and of the results of an investigation (article 6, paragraph 6). The final outcome of a prosecution must also be communicated to the Secretary-General for transmission to concerned States and international organisations (article 7).

Certain humanitarian considerations are addressed by the Convention. The State in which the hostage is held “shall take all measures it considers appropriate to ease the situation of the hostage, in particular, to secure his release and, after his release, to facilitate, when relevant, his departure” (article 3, paragraph 1). The property of hostages must also be returned as soon as possible (article 3, paragraph 2).

The Convention thus accords a discretion to States in choosing how to respond to hostage-taking, conceivably extending from negotiation at one end of the spectrum to forcible measures of rescue at the other. While some States refuse to negotiate with terrorists or to pay ransoms as a matter of policy, the Convention neither requires nor prohibits either step (the European Court of Human Rights has also recognised the discretion of States in their choice of response: see Finogenov and others v. Russia [2011], para. 223). Even granting immunity from prosecution may not be ruled out, as in the case of the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1986 (Lambert, op. cit., pp. 113-116). Any response must, however, comply with other relevant international laws, including human rights law and United Nations counter-terrorism financing obligations (see, e.g., Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1373 (2001); and International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism 1999).

Other States are prohibited, however, from taking forcible action to rescue hostages in the territory of another State without that State’s consent. Article 14 thus provides that “[n]othing in this Convention shall be construed as justifying the violation of the territorial integrity or political independence of a State in contravention of the Charter of the United Nations”. That provision does not affect, however, the application of any relevant international law of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and customary international law.

All State parties bear an obligation to cooperate to prevent hostage-taking under article 4. In particular, States must take all practicable measures to prevent preparations in their territories for its commission (within or outside their territories), including by prohibiting illegal activities by persons or groups that encourage, instigate, organize or engage in it. The rule is a specific reiteration of the general obligation on States not to permit their territories to be used for activities harmful to other States, including by terrorist acts (see, e.g., Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations). Prevention must also be pursued through the exchange of information (such as, for example, intelligence) and administrative coordination

Where inter-State disputes arise concerning the Convention, article 16 provides that they should be settled by negotiation, or failing that, arbitration or a subsequent reference to the International Court of Justice, unless a State reserves otherwise upon expressing its consent to the Convention.

4. Influence on Subsequent Legal Developments

18 September 1979 - Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York. A general view of the opening of the meeting. (Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant)By February 2014, the Hostages Convention had attracted 173 States parties and 39 signatories. The influence of the Convention is difficult to evaluate. Prosecutions or extraditions arising pursuant to the Convention appear reasonably scarce, even though many States parties have enacted the necessary domestic implementing legislation. It is undoubtedly comforting for States to know that the Convention is available in the rare cases that it may be needed. Some States have gone beyond what the Convention requires to treat its offences as non-political crimes for the purpose of national extradition law (see, e.g., Australia, Extradition Regulations (1988), Reg. 2B(1)(d)) or refugee law.

Whether the Convention has deterred potential hostage-takers is more difficult to know. Certainly many terrorists do not care for international law prohibitions which get in the way of violently attaining their political goals. There is also a risk that the prohibition of hostage-taking may divert terrorists to resort to other, as yet unregulated methods of terrorism, in the absence of a comprehensive treaty prohibiting all terrorism (the United Nations draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism has been under negotiation since 2000 but is not yet agreed).

The Hostages Convention has nevertheless influenced various areas of international and national legal practice, including international criminal law and international humanitarian law. In Prosecutor v. Blaskic, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia invoked the Hostages Convention in support of its definition of the war crime of hostage-taking in international humanitarian law (Prosecutor v. Blaskic (Appeal Judgement), 29 July 2004, para. 639, footnote 1332). This was the case notwithstanding that the Hostages Convention itself does not apply in armed conflicts.

Similarly, in Prosecutor v. Sesay, Kallon and Gbao (RUF case), the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone observed that the “elements” of the war crime of taking of hostages in armed conflict under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court borrow heavily from the Hostages Convention (Prosecutor v. Sesay, Kallon and Gbao (RUF Case), 26 October 2009, para. 579). The international humanitarian law treaty prohibitions on hostage-taking provide no definition of it (ibid., paragraph 577). The Appeals Chamber found the Hostages Convention “useful” in interpreting the war crime of hostage-taking. It drew on the Convention definition in overturning the Trial Chamber’s finding that hostage-taking requires the communication of a threat or demand to a third party (ibid., paragraph 580). It found instead that the offence requires only an intention by the perpetrator to compel a third party, which may be proved, for instance, by the issuing of a threat to the detained person alone, or inferred from other evidence. The Appeals Chamber’s review of domestic laws was also said to support that conclusion, with rare exceptions (ibid., paragraph 582 (the exception being the Canadian Criminal Code, article 279.1)). There is thus a convergence of the meaning of hostage-taking under the Hostages Convention, humanitarian law, and national law.

While the Hostages Convention is silent on State immunities, in the Pinochet proceedings before the British House of Lords, some judges suggested that the Convention has the effect of removing any immunity for hostage-taking (R v. Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and others, Ex part Pinochet Ugarte (No. 3) [2000] 1 AC 147). This is because either adherence to the Convention constitutes a waiver of immunity or acts of hostage-taking cannot be viewed as official or sovereign acts of State. On this view immunity is removed at least in respect of hostage-taking involving States parties to the Convention (as opposed to all States under customary international law). The issue was not, however, definitively settled in the Pinochet case, because the final decision turned on the treaty crime of torture rather than the less factually well founded allegation of hostage-taking.

The duty on States under article 3 of the Convention to take all measures it considers appropriate to secure the release of a hostage was raised in a regional human rights case concerning Russia’s rescue of hostages from a Moscow theatre. Russia invoked article 3 in defence of its use of gas to storm the theatre, which led to 125 deaths, in response to a claim that it had violated the right to life under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Finogenov and others v. Russia [2011], para. 186). The European Court of Human Rights did not address the point, instead deciding the case by applying the Court’s jurisprudence on article 2. This may be because the incident was domestic not transnational. In any event article 3 of the Hostages Convention could not justify violations of human rights law. This view is consistent with many resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council urging States to comply with their human rights obligations in countering terrorism.

Interpretation of the Hostages Convention has also arisen in a number of national criminal cases. For example, one United States court found that article 5 of the Convention supports the optional exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction on the basis of the passive personality principle (United States v. Yunis 924 F.2d 1086 (DC Cir 1991) 1090). Another United States decision clarified that the United States hostage-taking legislation was enacted to implement the Hostages Convention to enable extraterritorial jurisdiction, and thereby expand the more limited reach of existing domestic kidnapping offences (United States v. Salad 907 F.Supp.2d 743 (EDVa 2012)).

While the Convention describes hostage-taking as manifestations of terrorism, the United States and United Kingdom criminal cases confirm that the offence is not limited to political violence. It can apply to a purely domestic, intra-familial abduction (HM, PM v. KH, HM [2010] EWHC 870 (Fam); and United States v. Santos-Riviera 183 F.3d 367 (5th Cir 1999) (confinement of United States citizen infant to demand ransom for her release)), and to the many United States cases involving the confinement of illegal aliens where payment is demanded for their release (United States v. Tchibassa 452 F.3d 918 (DC Cir 2006); United States v. Si Lu Tian 339 F.3d 143 (2d Cir 2003); United States v. Ferreira 275 F.3d 1020 (11th Cir 2001); United States v. Fei Lin 139 F.3d 1303, supplemented by United States v. Fei 141 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir 1998); United States v. Wang Kun Lue 134 F.3d at 81; United States v. Lopez-Flores 63 F.3d 1468 (9th Cir 1995); and United States v. Carrion-Caliz 944 F.2d 220 (5th Cir 1991)). The latter can include cases where an initially consensual agreement to be smuggled for a fee later turns into involuntary confinement (United States v. Si Lu Tian 339 F.3d 143 (2d Cir 2003)).

Detention is not limited to physical restraint, but can extend to threats, coercion, or deception which causes the person to remain under another’s control. It thus includes, for instance, where an alien is frightened of her smugglers, witnessed the beatings of others, was threatened, and held in a guarded apartment (ibid.). The person’s circumstances are relevant, such as where an alien is unfamiliar with the new country, cannot speak the language, and lacks the resources to escape (United States v. Carrion-Caliz 944 F.2d 220 (5th Cir 1991) 225).

However, brief confinement for 15 minutes was not sufficient to constitute hostage-taking, in a case where an illegal alien was held in a “gypsy taxi” extortion scheme until her husband paid to release her, and while awaiting the arrival of police who had been called (United States v. Rodriguez 587 F.3d 573 (2d Cir 2009)). In part this was because although the Hostages Convention is not limited to terrorism, its anti-terrorism background suggests that the offence should not be stretched too far. Even so, detention for a few hours can constitute hostage-taking where, for instance, a vulnerable infant is abducted (United States v. Santos-Riviera 183 F.3d 367 (5th Cir 1999)).

The Hostages Convention has also influenced the development of national civil and administrative laws. A frequently litigated example is the United States’ Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which provides an exception to State immunity in civil proceedings before United States courts against foreign State sponsors of hostage-taking. The United States law offence of hostage-taking implements the United States’ obligations under the Hostages Convention and defines hostage-taking in identical terms. The Convention itself does not establish any civil law exception to foreign State immunity for hostage-taking so the FSIA exception reflects domestic not international law.

Nonetheless, the significant number of FSIA cases involving hostage-taking provide useful interpretive guidance on the Convention definition, particularly given the scarcity of criminal or extradition proceedings in national law. Thus, for instance, United States courts have found that the intention of a perpetrator is decisive, not whether his or her purpose or demands were communicated to a third party (Simpson v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 470 F.3d 356 (DC Cir 2006) 360), or whether his or her demands are realistic or achievable (Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic 362 F.Supp.2d 103 (DDC 2005) 113). Unpleasant imprisonment absent an intent to compel another is not hostage-taking (Price v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 294 F.3d 82, 352 U.S.App.D.C. 284 (2002)).

The United States cases have also clarified what it means to “seize” or “detain” a person, namely that a person is held or confined against his or her will for an appreciable period of time (Vine v. Republic of Iraq 459 F.Supp.2d 10 (DDC 2006) 17-19). Actual physical force or violence is unnecessary as long as the person was threatened, frightened, deceived or coerced so as to cause the person to remain under the offender’s control (United States v. Si Lu Tian 339 F.3d 143 (2d Cir 2003) 153). Thus a person may be constructively detained, as where Americans were compelled to hide in safe houses or diplomatic premises under the constant fear of capture by Iraqi security forces, where threats to Americans were being used by Iraq to prevent to the United States from attacking it.

In an administrative law case, the Israeli Supreme Court held that a domestic statute authorising administrative detention could not permit detaining non-threatening persons as “bargaining chips”, since that did not comply with article 1 of the Hostages Convention or article 34 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Anonymous (Lebanese citizens) v. Minister of Defence, Final decision, Israeli Supreme Court (Court of Appeals), FCrA 7048/97). While those treaty provisions were not domestically binding in the absence of legislation, the Court found that there was a “presumption of compatibility” between international law and domestic law, which applied in the interpretation of the domestic detention statute.

The cases mentioned above illustrate that the Hostages Convention has influenced diverse legal contexts, including criminal, extradition, civil, administrative, human rights, and refugee law.


__________________________
*The author expresses appreciation to Ms. Kate Bones and Ms. Kathleen Heath for their assistance.


Related Materials
A. Legal Instruments
International

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris, 10 December 1948, General Assembly resolution 217 (III) of 10 December 1948.

Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Geneva, 12 August 1949, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, p. 31.

Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of the Armed Forces at Sea, Geneva, 12 August 1949, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75 p. 85.

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, p. 135.

Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, p. 287.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Geneva, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171.

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, The Hague, 16 December 1970, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 860, p. 105.

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, Montreal, 23 September 1971, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 974, p. 177.

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, New York, 14 December 1973, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1035, p. 167.

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), Geneva, 8 June 1977, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1125, p. 3.

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), Geneva, 8 June 1977, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1125, p. 609.

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Rome, 17 July 1998, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2187, p. 3.

International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, New York, 9 December 1999, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2178, p. 197.

National

Australia, Extradition Regulations (1988).

Canada, Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46).

United States, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) (1976).

B. Jurisprudence
International

International Court of Justice, United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1980, p. 3.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor v. Blaskic, IT-95-14-A, Appeals Chamber, Judgement of 29 July 2004.

Special Court for Sierra Leone, Prosecutor v. Sesay, Kallon and Gbao (RUF Case), SCSL-04-15-A, Appeals Chamber, Judgment of 26 October 2009.

European Court of Human Rights, Finogenov and others v. Russia, Application Nos. 18299/03 and 27311/03, Judgment of 20 December 2011.

National

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, United States v. Yunis, 924 F.2d 1086 (1991), 29 January 1991.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, United States v. Carrion-Caliz, 944 F.2d 220 (1991), 27 September 1991.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States v. Lopez-Flores, 63 F.3d 1468 (1995), 10 August 1995.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States v. Wang Kun Lue, 134 F.3d 79 (1998), 14 January 1998.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States v. Fei Lin, 139 F.3d 1303 (1998), 30 March 1998.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States v. Fei, 141 F.3d 1180 (1998), 30 March 1998.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, United States v. Santos-Riviera, 183 F.3d 367 (1999), 29 July 1999.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, United States v. Ferreira, 275 F.3d 1020 (2001), 11 December 2001.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Price v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 294 F.3d 82, 352 U.S.App.D.C. 284 (2002), 28 June 2002.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States v. Si Lu Tian 339 F.3d 143 (2003), 12 August 2003.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 362 F.Supp.2d 103 (2005), 3 March 2005.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, United States v. Tchibassa, 452 F.3d 918 (2006), 7 July 2006.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Vine v. Republic of Iraq, 459 F.Supp.2d 10 (2006), 7 September 2006.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Simpson v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 470 F.3d 356 (2006), 21 November 2006.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States v. Rodriguez, 587 F.3d 573 (2009), 30 November 2009.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, United States v. Salad, 907 F.Supp.2d 743 (2012), 27 November 2012.

Israeli Supreme Court (Court of Appeals), Anonymous (Lebanese citizens) v. Minister of Defence, Final decision, FCrA 7048/97, 12 April 2000.

United Kingdom House of Lords, R v. Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and others, Ex part Pinochet Ugarte, No. 3 AC 147 (2000).

High Court of Justice of England and Wales, Family Division, HM, PM v. KH, HM, [2010] EWHC 870 (Fam), 30 April 2010.

C. Documents
Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970, annex).

Letter dated 28 September 1976 from the Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Secretary-General (A/31/242, 28 September 1976).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of the 55th and 58th meetings of the thirty-first regular session of the General Assembly, held, respectively, on 26 and 30 November 1976 (A/C.6/31/SR.55 and 58).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages) (A/31/430, 14 December 1976).

General Assembly resolution 31/103 of 15 December 1976 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages).

Working paper submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany (A/AC.188/L.3), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II A).

Working paper submitted by Lesotho and the United Republic of Tanzania, later joined by Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, the Libyan Arab Republic and Nigeria (A/AC.188/L.5), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II C).

Working paper submitted by Mexico (A/AC.188/L.6), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II D).

Working paper submitted by Algeria and the United Republic of Tanzania, later joined by Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Nigeria (A/AC.188/L.7), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II E).

Working paper submitted by France (A/AC.188/L.8) concerning article 4 of the working paper submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany (A/AC.188/L.3), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II F).

Working paper submitted by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (A/AC.188/L.9), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II G).

Working paper submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic (A/AC.188/L.11) concerning the working paper submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Nigeria and the United Republic of Tanzania (A/AC.188/L.7), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II I).

Working paper submitted by France (A/AC.188/L.13) concerning the working paper submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany (A/AC.188/L.3), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II K).

Working paper submitted by the Netherlands (A/AC.188/L.14) concerning the working paper submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany (A/AC.188/L.3), reproduced in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977, annex II L).

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977).

General Assembly resolutions 32/148 of 16 December 1977 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages).

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/33/39, 4 May 1978).

General Assembly resolution 33/19 of 29 November 1978 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages).

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/34/39, 20 March 1979).

Report of the Working Group on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, 16 November 1979 (A/C.6/34/L.12, 16 November 1979, and A/C.6/34/L.12/Corr.4, 3 December 1979).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary record of 62nd meeting of the thirty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly, held on 7 December 1979 (A/C.6/34/SR.62).

Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) of 15 October 1999.

Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) of 28 September 2001.

D. Doctrine
C. Aston, “The United Nations Convention Against the Taking of Hostages: Realistic or Rhetoric?”, in British Perspectives on Terrorism, Paul Wilkinson, ed., Allen & Unwin, Australia,1981.

J. Lambert, Terrorism and Hostages in International Law: A Commentary on the Hostages Convention 1979, Grotius Publications, Cambridge, 1990.


العربيةArabic 中文 English English FrançaisFrench РусскийRussian EspañolSpanish

18 September 1979 - Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York. The Assembly observing a minute of silent prayer or meditation shortly after the meeting was called to order. (Photo Caption: UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata)The question of drafting and adopting an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages was initially proposed for inclusion in the agenda of the General Assembly’s thirty-first session by the Federal Republic of Germany in a letter dated 28 September 1976 addressed to the Secretary-General (A/31/242). The explanatory memorandum attached to that letter stated that the act of taking hostages had become a global problem that not only endangered the lives of people directly involved, but also the security of many other persons, and repeatedly threatened international peace and transnational relations. For this reason, the Federal Republic of Germany proposed the drafting and adoption, as a matter of priority, of an international instrument dealing with the problem of hostage taking.

At the thirty-first session of the General Assembly, in 1976, the item entitled “Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages” was allocated to the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, which considered it between 26 November and 10 December 1976. On 10 December 1976, the Sixth Committee adopted a draft resolution recommending the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (Report of the Sixth Committee, A/31/430). Upon the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly adopted, on 15 December 1976, resolution 31/103, by which it established the Ad Hoc Committee, composed of thirty-five Member States, and requested it to draft at the earliest possible date an international convention against the taking of hostages and to make every effort to submit a draft convention to the General Assembly in good time for consideration at its thirty-second session.

The Ad Hoc Committee held its first session in New York from 1 to 19 August 1977. Thirteen working papers were submitted by the members of the Committee, including a fourteen-article draft convention by the Federal Republic of Germany (A/AC.188/L.3), which represented the basis of the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. The working papers were included in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee to the General Assembly (A/32/39). At the thirty-second session of the General Assembly, the Sixth Committee considered the item between 30 November and 12 December 1977. On its recommendation (A/32/467), the General Assembly adopted, on 16 December 1977, resolution 32/148, by which it took note of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee and asked it to continue its work, since it had been unable to complete the mandate given to it in the allocated time.

Pursuant to resolution 32/148, the Ad Hoc Committee held its second session in Geneva from 6 to 24 February 1978. The Ad Hoc Committee considered two additional working papers submitted by France and Yugoslavia, as well as the working papers considered at the first session of the Committee. The Ad Hoc Committee continued to use the draft convention proposed the previous year by the Federal Republic of Germany as the basis of its work. Two open-ended working groups were established during that session: the first working group was requested to examine the thornier questions connected with the drafting of the convention and to try to find some common ground by means of consultations; the second group was asked to deal with draft articles on which agreement had been reached, or which were not generally controversial. On 24 February 1978, the Ad Hoc Committee approved the reports of both working groups and, expressing the need for more time to work on the drafting of a convention, recommended that the General Assembly invite the Ad Hoc Committee to continue its work in the following year (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee to the General Assembly, A/33/39 and Corr.1).

At its thirty-third session, the General Assembly had before it the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as a report of the Secretary-General containing suggestions on the proposed convention received from the Holy See, Indonesia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (A/33/194). The item was considered by the Sixth Committee between 10 and 21 November 1978. On the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly adopted resolution 33/19 on 29 November 1978, by which it took note of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee and decided that the Committee should continue its work the following year.

Accordingly, the Ad Hoc Committee held its third session in Geneva from 29 January to 16 February 1979. It considered the various working papers submitted at its previous sessions and continued to base its work on the draft convention tabled in 1977 by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Ad Hoc Committee reestablished its two working groups, asking them to carry on the work started in 1978 under the same conditions. On 16 February 1979, the Ad Hoc Committee approved the reports of both working groups and submitted its own report to the General Assembly, recommending further consideration and adoption of the draft “International Convention against the Taking of Hostages”, of which two provisions had not been agreed upon, namely article 9 on the extradition of alleged offenders, newly introduced by Jordan, and article 14 regarding the right of asylum (A/34/39).

At the thirty-fourth session of the General Assembly, in 1979, the Sixth Committee decided to refer consideration of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee to a working group which would review the draft convention article by article. The Working Group on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages held ten meetings between 8 October and 13 November 1979. Its report (A/C.6/34/L.12) was taken into consideration on 27 November 1979 by the Sixth Committee. The draft convention presented by the working group was welcomed by the majority of delegations in the Sixth Committee. On 7 December 1979, the Sixth Committee adopted a draft resolution introduced two days earlier by the representative of the Federal Republic of Germany (A/C.6/34/L.23) and to which was annexed the final draft of the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (Report of the Sixth Committee, A/34/819). The General Assembly considered the draft resolution, recommended by the Sixth Committee, on 17 December 1979. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics requested a separate recorded vote on article 9 of the Convention, dealing with the extradition of alleged offenders, which was adopted by 125 votes to 10, with 3 abstentions. Subsequently, the General Assembly adopted by consensus resolution 34/146 on 17 December 1979, thereby adopting the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages. The Convention was opened for signature from 18 December 1979 until 31 December 1980. Pursuant to its article 18, paragraph 2, it entered into force on 3 June 1983, the thirtieth day following the day of deposit of the twenty-second instrument of ratification or accession.


Text of the instrument

Selected preparatory documents
(in chronological order)

Letter dated 28 September 1976 from the Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Secretary-General (A/31/242)

General Assembly, Verbatim records of the 7th plenary meeting of the thirty-first regular session, held on 28 September 1976 (A/31/PV.7)

Second Report of the General Committee to the General Assembly (A/31/250/Add.1, 4 October 1976)

Letter dated 4 October 1976 from the President of the General Assembly addressed to the Chairman of the Sixth Committee (A/C.6/31/3)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Draft resolution, “Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages”, submitted by 17 States (A/C.6/31/L.10, 24 November 1976)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Amendments to the draft resolution contained in document A/C.6/31/L.10, submitted by the Libyan Arab Republic (A/C.6/31/L.11, 25 November 1976)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Revised draft resolution, “Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages”, submitted by 35 States (A/C.6/31/L.10/Rev.1, 9 December 1976)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 55 to 59 and 70 of the thirty-first regular session of the General Assembly, held, respectively, on 26, 29 and 30 November, and on 1 and 10 December 1976 (A/C.6/31/SR.55, 56, 57, 58, 59 and 70)

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/31/430, 14 December 1976)

General Assembly resolution 31/103 of 15 December 1976 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages)

Note by the Secretary-General, “Appointment of the members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages” (A/31/479, 28 June 1977)

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/32/39, 27 September 1977)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Draft resolution, “Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages”, submitted on behalf of 46 States (A/C.6/32/L.10, 16 November 1977)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 59 to 63 of the thirty-second regular session of the General Assembly, held, respectively, on 30 November and on 1, 3, and 5 December (A/C.6/32/SR.59, 60, 61, 62 and63)

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/32/467, 15 December 1977)

General Assembly resolution 32/148 of 16 December 1977 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages)

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/33/39 and Corr. 1, 4 May 1978)

Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly (A/33/194, 21 September 1978)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Draft resolution, “Drafting of an International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages”, submitted by 50 States (A/C.6/33/L.5, 10 November 1978)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 44, 48 and 49 to 53 of the thirty-third regular session of the General Assembly, held, respectively, on 10, from 15 to 17, and on 20 and 21 November 1978 (A/C.6/33/SR.44, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 and53)

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/33/385, 24 November 1978)

General Assembly, Verbatim records of the 63rd plenary meeting of the thirty-third regular session, held on 29 November 1978 (A/33/PV.63)

General Assembly resolution 33/19 of 29 November 1978 (Drafting of an international convention against the taking of hostages)

Note by the Secretary-General, “Appointment of a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages” (A/33/557, 26 January 1979)

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (A/34/39, 20 March 1979)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 4, 12 to 14, 53 and 62 of the thirty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly, held, respectively, on 28 September, from 8 to 10 October, and on 27 November and 7 December 1979 (A/C.6/34/SR.4, 12, 13, 14, 53 and 62)

Report of the Working Group on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, 16 November 1979 (A/C.6/34/L.12, 16 November 1979, and A/C.6/34/L.12/Corr.4, 3 December 1979)

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Text of the third and fourth paragraphs of the preamble of the draft international convention (A/C.6/34/L.14, 26 November 1979)

Federal Republic of Germany: draft resolution and annex (A/C.6/34/L.23 and A/C.6/34/L.23/Add.1, 4 December 1979)

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/34/819, 13 December 1979)

General Assembly, Verbatim records of the 105th plenary meeting of the thirty-fourth regular session, held on 17 December 1979 (A/34/PV.105)

General Assembly resolution 34/146 of 17 December 1979 (International Convention against the Taking of Hostages)


The International Convention against the Taking of Hostages entered into force on 3 June 1983. For the current participation status of the Convention, as well as information and relevant texts of related treaty actions, such as reservations, declarations, objections, denunciations and notifications, see:

Status of the instrument

18 September 1979
Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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18 September 1979
Thirty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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2 July 1980
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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23 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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23 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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24 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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24 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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24 September 2004
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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24 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
[Read more]
26 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
[Read more]
30 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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2 June 2004
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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