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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses how international humanitarian law has sought to respond to the challenges presented by the modern theater of conflict with its ever-changing cast of actors. Hostage-taking was used for many of the same purposes as collective punishment and similarly relied upon an imputed collective responsibility of the particular community from which the hostages were taken. The chapter examines the further endeavors undertaken since the Second World War to augment the already extensive prohibition on hostage-taking. It traces the evolution of hostage-taking in international law. For so long an accepted practice of warfare, hostage-taking was used as a justification for the execution of thousands of innocent persons during the Second World War. The questionable military or security effectiveness, which has always hung over the practice of hostage-taking when undertaken by warring States, now applies equally to armed non-State groups.

Keywords: hostage-taking; international humanitarian law; Second World War; security effectiveness



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