International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages
New York, 17 December 1979
  • Introductory Note
  • Procedural History
  • Documents
  • Status
  • Photo
F o r t h c o m i n g
Introductory note by Ben Saul
Professor of International Law, University of Sydney Law School

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 Convention against the Taking of Hostages entered into force on 3 June 1983, the thirtieth day following the day of deposit of the twenty-second instrument of ratification or accession, as provided for by its article 18. The main objective of the Convention is to develop and maintain international cooperation between States Parties in devising and adopting effective measures for the prevention, prosecution and punishment of all acts of taking of hostages as manifestations of international terrorism.

The question of drafting an international convention against the taking of hostages was included on the agenda of the thirty-first session of the General Assembly in 1976 and allocated to the Sixth Committee. Upon the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, an Ad Hoc Committee was established by the General Assembly, which was requested to draft an international convention against the taking of hostages. Accordingly, at the third session of the Ad Hoc Committee in 1979, a draft convention was submitted to the General Assembly. After a working group of the Sixth Committee considered the draft convention article by article, the Sixth Committee adopted a draft resolution to which the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages was annexed. The General Assembly considered the draft resolution, recommended by the Sixth Committee, and adopted the Convention by consensus on 17 December 1979.

The Convention contains 20 articles which, inter alia, define the offences of taking of hostages (“hostage taking”, article 1); require State Parties’ to establish jurisdiction over such offences (article 5) and make the offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature (article 2). Furthermore, States Parties’ are required to extradite or prosecute any person committing an act of hostage taking (article 8).


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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 15 December 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.1, 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 15 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 15 December 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
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26 September 2003
Treaty signing event, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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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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