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Encyclopedia > Hostage
Police often train to recover hostages taken by force, as in this exercise
Police often train to recover hostages taken by force, as in this exercise

A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war. However, in modern days, it means someone who is seized by a criminal abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative, employer or government to act, or refrain from acting, in a particular way, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage(s) after expiration of an ultimatum. Hostage may refer to: A hostage, a person or entity which is held by a captor Hostage (film), the 2005 action movie Hostage (album), by Christian rock band Resurrection Band Hostage (novel), the novel by Robert Crais The Hostage (play), a 1958 stage play by Brendan Behan The Hostage (1959... Image File history File links Information. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 484 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (968 × 1200 pixel, file size: 349 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) DoD photo by: TSGT JAMES BURNETTE Russian Security Police Force members (not shown) visit McEntire Air National Guard Station, South Carolina, and take... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 484 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (968 × 1200 pixel, file size: 349 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) DoD photo by: TSGT JAMES BURNETTE Russian Security Police Force members (not shown) visit McEntire Air National Guard Station, South Carolina, and take... Kidnapping, a word derived from kid, meaning child and nap (nab) meaning snatch, recorded since 1673, was originally used as a term for the practice of stealing children for use as servants or laborers in the American colonies. ... Kinship is the most basic principle of organizing individuals into social groups, roles, and categories. ... Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. ... An ultimatum (Latin: ) is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. ...

A party which seizes hostages is known as hostage-taker; if they are present(ed) voluntarily, then the receiver is known rather as host.


Historical hostage practices

As the probable etymology (through French ostage, modern otage, from Late Latin obsidaticum, the state of being an obsess or hostage; Medieval Latin ostaticum, ostagium) from the Latin hostis ('guest') testifies, it has a history of political and military use dating back thousands of years, where political authorities or generals would legally agree to hand over one or usually several hostages in the custody of the other side, as guarantee of good faith in the observance of obligations. These obligations would be in the form of signing of a peace treaty, in the hands of the victor, or even exchange hostages as mutual assurance in cases such as an armistice. Major powers, such as Ancient Rome and the British who had colonial vassals, would especially receive many such political hostages, often offspring of the elite, even princes or princesses who were generally treated according to their rank and put to a subtle long-term use where they would be given an elitist education or possibly even a religious conversion. This would eventually influence them culturally and open the way for an amical political line if they ascended to power after release. A white flag is traditionally used to represent a truce. ... Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. ... Look up vassal in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Academic institutions often face the charge of academic elitism, sometimes called the Ivory Tower. ... Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religious identity, or a change from one religious identity to another. ...

The practice of taking hostages is very ancient, and has been used constantly in negotiations with conquered nations, and in cases such as surrenders, armistices and the like, where the two belligerents depended for its proper carrying out on each others good faith. The Romans were accustomed to take the sons of tributary princes and educate them at Rome, thus holding a security for the continued loyalty of the conquered nation and also instilling a possible future ruler with ideas of Roman civilization.

The practice continued through the early Middle Ages. The Irish High King Niall of the Nine Hostages got his epithet Noígiallach because, by taking nine petty kings hostages, he had subjected nine other principalities to his power. A high king is a king who holds a position of seniority over a group of other kings. ... Niall of the Nine Hostages (Irish: Niall Noigíallach) was a High King of Ireland who was active in the early-to-mid 5th century, dying - according to the latest estimates - around 450-455. ...

This practice was also adopted in the early period of the British occupation of India, and by France in her relations with the Arab tribes in North Africa. The position of a hostage was that of a prisoner of war, to be retained till the negotiations or treaty obligations were carried out, and liable to punishment (in ancient times), and even to death, in case of treachery or refusal to fulfil the promises made. The practice of taking hostages as security for the carrying out of a treaty between civilized states is now obsolete. The last occasion was at the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when two British peers, Henry Bowes Howard, 11th Earl of Suffolk, and Charles, 9th Baron Cathcart, were sent to France as hostages for the restitution of Cape Breton to France. Geneva Convention definition A prisoner of war (POW) is a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. ... Events April 24 - A congress assembles at Aix-la-Chapelle with the intent to conclude the struggle known as the War of Austrian Succession - at October 18 - The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle is signed to end the war Adam Smith begins to deliver public lectures in Edinburgh Building of... Lord Cathcart by Joshua Reynolds (1753-5) © Manchester Art Gallery General Charles Schaw Cathcart, 9th Lord Cathcart (21 March 1721–14 August 1776) was a British soldier and diplomat. ... Nova Scotia peninsula (white), and Cape Breton Island (red) Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada NASA landsat photo of Cape Breton Island Cape Breton Island (French: île du Cap-Breton, Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Cheap Breatuinn, Míkmaq: Únamakika, simply: Cape Breton) is an island on the Atlantic coast of North...

In later times the practice of official war hostages may be said to be confined to either securing the payment of enforced contributions or requisitions in an occupied territory and the obedience to regulations the occupying army may think fit to issue; or as a precautionary measure, to prevent illegitimate acts of war or violence by persons not members of the recognized military forces of the enemy. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the Germans took as hostages the prominent people or officials from towns or districts when making requisitions and also when foraging, and it was a general practice for the mayor and adjoint of a town which failed to pay a fine imposed upon it to be seized as hostages and retained till the money was paid. Another case where hostages have been taken in modern warfare has been the subject of much discussion. In 1870 the Germans found it necessary to take special measures to put a stop to train-wrecking by parties in occupied territory not belonging to the recognized armed forces of the enemy, an illegitimate act of war. Prominent citizens were placed on the engine of the train so that it might be understood that in every accident caused by the hostility of the inhabitants their compatriots will be the first to suffer. The measure seems to have been effective. In 1900 during the Second Boer War, by a proclamation issued at Pretoria (June 19), Lord Roberts adopted the plan for a similar reason, but shortly afterwards (July 29) it was abandoned (see The Times History of the War in S. Africa, iv. 402). The Germans also, between the surrender of a town and its final occupation, took hostages as security against outbreaks of violence by the inhabitants. Most writers on international law have regarded this method of preventing such acts of hostility as unjustifiable, on the ground that the persons taken as hostages are not the persons responsible for the act; that, as by the usage of war hostages are to be treated strictly as prisoners of war, such an exposure to danger is transgressing the rights of a belligerent; and as useless, for the mere temporary removal of important citizens till the end of a war cannot be a deterrent unless their mere removal deprives the combatants of persons necessary to the continuance of the acts aimed at (see W. E. Hall, International Law, 1904, pp. 418, 475). On the other hand it has been urged (L. Oppenheim, International Law, 1905, vol. ii., War and Neutrality, pp. 271-273) that the acts, the prevention of which is aimed at, are not legitimate acts on the part of the armed forces of the enemy, but illegitimate acts by private persons, who, if caught, could be quite lawfully punished, and that a precautionary and preventive measure is more reasonable than reprisals. It may be noticed, however, that the hostages would suffer should the acts aimed at be performed by the authorized belligerent forces of the enemy. Combatants Second French Empire North German Confederation allied with south German states (later German Empire) Commanders Napoleon III Otto Von Bismarck, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder Strength 400,000 at the beginning of the war 1,200,000 Casualties 150,000 dead or wounded 284,000 captured 350,000 civilian... Combatants British Empire Orange Free State South African Republic Commanders Sir Redvers Buller Lord Kitchener Lord Roberts Paul Kruger Louis Botha Koos de la Rey Martinus Steyn Christiaan de Wet Casualties 6,000 - 7,000 (A further ~14,000 from disease) 6,000 - 8,000 (Unknown number from disease) Civilians...

In France, after the revolution of Prairial (June 18, 1799), the so-called law of hostages was passed, to meet the royalist insurrection in La Vende. Relatives of migris were taken from disturbed districts and imprisoned, and were liable to execution at any attempt to escape. Sequestration of their property and deportation from France followed on the murder of a republican, four to every such murder, with heavy fines on the whole body of hostages. The law only resulted in an increase in the insurrection. Napoleon in 1796 had used similar measures to deal with the insurrection in Lombardy (Correspondence de Napoléon I. i. 323, 327, quoted in Hall, International Law).

Article 50 of the Hague War Regulations provides that no general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, can be inflicted on the population on account of the acts of individuals for which it cannot be regarded as collectively responsible. The regulations, however do not allude to the practice of taking hostage. International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the law of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus comprised of the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law. ...

In May 1871, at the close of the Paris Commune, took place the massacre of the so-called hostages. Strictly they were not hostages, for they had not been handed over or seized as security for the performance of any undertaking or as a preventive measure, but merely in retaliation for the death of their leaders E. V. Duval and Gustave Flourens. It was an act of maniacal despair, on the defeat at Mont Valrien on the 4th of April and the entry of the army into Paris on the 21st of May. Among the many victims who were shot in batches the most noticeable were Georges Darboy, archbishop of Paris, the Abbé Deguery, curé of the Madeleine, and the president of the Court of Cassation, Louis Bernard Bonjean. Georges Darboy (January 16, 1813 - May 27, 1871), archbishop of Paris, was born at Fayl-Billot in Haute-Marne. ... The archbishop of Paris is one of twenty-three archbishops in France. ... The genuine madeleine de Commercy A madeleine or petite madeleine or marret (in few countries)is a traditional sweet from Commercy, a town of the Meuse département in northeastern France. ...

Illegal hostage taking

Taking hostages is today considered a crime or a terrorist act; the use of the word in this sense of abductee became current only in the 1970s. The criminal activity is known as kidnapping. An acute situation where hostages are kept in a building or a vehicle that has been taken over by armed terrorists or common criminals is often called a hostage crisis. Terrorist redirects here. ... Kidnapping, a word derived from kid, meaning child and nap (nab) meaning snatch, recorded since 1673, was originally used as a term for the practice of stealing children for use as servants or laborers in the American colonies. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

Hostage taking is still often politically motivated or intended to raise a ransom or to enforce an exchange against other hostages or even condemned convicts. However in some countries hostage taking for profit has become an "industry", ransom often being the only demand. The term ransom refers to the practice of holding a prisoner to extort money or property extorted to secure their release, or to the sum of money involved. ...

Other use

The word "hostage" is sometimes used metaphorically, for example "The failure of the plans showed that yet again the whole matter was hostage to one traffic delay caused by unannounced roadworks stopping a man from catching a plane.". Roadworks on the A9 Autobahn in Germany. ...

In old Germanic peoples the word for "hostage" (gīsl and similar) sometimes occurred as part of a man's name: Ēadgils, Cynegils, Gīslheard, Gīslbeorht, etc. See also Homeric Question. For other uses, see Homer (disambiguation). ...

Famous hostages include


For other uses, see Julius Caesar (disambiguation). ... Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (IPA: in modern Spanish; September 29, 1547 – April 23, 1616) was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. ... (IPA: , but see spelling and pronunciation below), fully titled (The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha) is an early novel written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. ... Polybius (c. ... Richard I (September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199) was King of England from 1189 to 1199. ... Theodoric the Great (454 - August 30, 526), known to the Romans as Flavius Theodoricus, was king of the Ostrogoths (488-526), ruler of Italy (493-526), and regent of the Visigoths (511-526). ... Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu The Tokugawa clan crest This is a Japanese name; the family name is Tokugawa Tokugawa Ieyasu (previously spelled Iyeyasu) January 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616) was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until...

Recent times

Terry A. Anderson (b. ... Shasta Groene (born November 25, 1996) is a young girl from Coeur dAlene, Idaho. ... Brian Keenan may be: Brian Keenan (musician) (1943-1985), United States Brian Keenan (hostage) (b. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Jill Carroll appeared in a video released by the terrorist group, Brigades of Vengeance Jill Carroll (born 1977) is an American journalist who was kidnapped and ultimately released in Iraq. ... Christian Chesnot is a French journalist working for Radio France who, along with Georges Malbrunot, was taken hostage on August 20, 2004, by the Islamic Army in Iraq. ... John Coleman David John Coleman (November 28, 1928 - April 5, 1973) was a player (1949 to 1954) and coach (1961 to 1967) for Essendon in the Victorian Football League (now the AFL). ... Roy Hallums, seen in a video released January 25, 2005. ... Patricia Hearst. ... Image:PhotoIngridSimple. ... The FARC-EPs flag The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army, or FARC-EP) is a militant and revolutionary guerrilla group established in 1964-1966 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, and is Colombias... The late Servite Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a native of Joliet, Illinois, was taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there. ... Alan Graham Johnston (born May 17, 1962) is a British journalist working for the BBC. He has been the BBCs correspondent in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. ... George Malbrunot is a French journalist working for Le Figaro who, along with Christian Chesnot and Muhammed al-Jundi (their driver), was taken hostage on August 20, 2004, by the Islamic Army in Iraq. ... John Patrick McCarthy CBE (born November 26, 1956) is a British journalist who was kidnapped by terrorists in Lebanon in April 1986, and held hostage for more than five years. ... Cpl. ... Elizabeth Ann Smart (born 1987) was abducted from her Salt Lake City, Utah bedroom on June 5, 2002 at the age of 14. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Vinson Filyaw. ... Terry Waite at April 1993 Allentown College speech Terry Waite CBE (born May 31, 1939 in Styal, Cheshire, England) is a British humanitarian and author. ...

See also

Look up hostage in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. ... Kidnapping and hostage taking has become a common occurrence in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. ... Monotheism and Jihad members with Kim Sun-il giving Korea 24 hours to withdraw Korean troops out of Iraq . ... Iranian militants escort a blindfolded U.S. hostage to the media. ... Indian Airlines Flight 814 (abbreviated IC-814) was a flight that flew from Kathmandu, Nepals Tribhuvan International Airport to Delhi, Indias Indira Gandhi International Airport. ... Combatants  Israel  PFLP Revolutionäre Zellen  Uganda Commanders Yonatan Netanyahu† Wadie Haddad Wilfried Böse Idi Amin Strength 29 Commandos Unknown Casualties Yonatan Netanyahu killed three hostages killed five commandos wounded 6 hijackers killed 45 Ugandan soldiers killed Operation Entebbe, also known as the Entebbe incident and occasionally the Entebbe... The two parts of the laws of war (or Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)): Law concerning acceptable practices while engaged in war, like the Geneva Conventions, is called jus in bello; while law concerning allowable justifications for armed force is called jus ad bellum. ... This article contains information that has not been verified. ... The Munich massacre occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian militant group Black September, a group with ties to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization. ... In warfare, a reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of the laws of war to punish an enemy for breaking the laws of war. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Capture-bonding. ... Countervalue refers to the military strategy of targeting ones forces on what the enemy values most, such as infrastructure and civilians. ...


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Etymology on line

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