The wicked crime of kidnapping

The wicked crime of kidnapping

Former Italian missionary Rolando Del Torchio waits for medical treatment at the Trauma Center Zamboanga city hours after his release from suspected Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in Jolo southern Philippines on Saturday. — AP

Kidnapping is very probably the worst of crimes, in some respects worse even than actual murder. When criminals seize someone, they condemn that victim to a living death. Concealed from their loved ones, often kept in appalling conditions, they struggle from day to day not knowing what their fate will be.  Meanwhile, friends and relatives have to endure the torture of trying to scrape together whatever sum is demanded, unsure that even if the money is paid, the victim will be freed.

Particularly cruel kidnappings involve the sending of fingers or ears to relatives to increase their distress and, the kidnappers suppose, boost the chance of their early payment.  And then there is the horrific knowledge that the criminals may try to conceal their tracks. Their victim is likely to be able to identify them in one way or another. Unless it is in a lawless society like Libya where no criminal is ever caught, let alone brought to trial, the kidnappers know there is a risk in letting their prey go free.

Thus it is not unusual for the crime to end in the murder that was always threatened, even though the ransom demand has been met. 

The anguish of the victims and those who care for them is all the greater when the seizures have been made for political reasons as part of an insurgency.  This is currently the case in the Philippines where Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who have pledged allegiance to Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), are holding a number of foreigners in their jungle hideouts. These include Malaysians and Indonesians, a Dutch birdwatcher, a Canadian and a Norwegian.

The terrorists are demanding millions for the release of these luckless individuals, one of whom has been held for nearly four years. And the demands are being made to the governments of these citizens. In addition Abu Sayyaf is linking the release of its imprisoned members to the money ransom.

The Canadian government refused to pay anything for the release of an earlier hostage. As a result the wretched man was decapitated and his head left on a remote island. Now a video has been released of another Canadian,  a Norwegian and a Filipino in which they beg their governments to give in to the terrorists’ demands, otherwise they will be killed.
  Distraught relatives must be going through hell as they watch these awful pictures. For the Canadian family members in particular, the torment is complete because the Canadian government is one of a number around the world that operate a no-deal policy.

Like the British, the Canadians argue that giving in to the demands of any sort of kidnappers, but particularly terrorists, is a grievous error. Their point is that cutting a deal for one kidnap victim makes it inevitable that more of their nationals will be seized at some future date with the criminals confidently expecting their demands to be met again.

Not every government agrees with this policy. The French and Italian governments have managed to secure the release of hostages in Syria and Libya. In every case, there has been vigorous denial that any ransom was paid. For Abu Sayyaf these kidnappings are less about the money and more about the power of publicity. Cutting the head off a helpless kidnap victim is their way of making themselves noticed, which loathsomely, they regard as a great victory.