This is something that's been on my mind the last few weeks, after one of the worst crimes imaginable.
Our country is in shock and disbelief after,John Ridsdel, a Canadian was beheaded by a group of terrorists in the Philippines less than two weeks ago. The Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf released a video showing the gruesome beheading of Ridsdel as well as a second video threatening to behead their remaining Canadian hostage, Robert Hall. There is now a very real fear that Hall will suffer the same fate.
The brutal murder has renewed a debate about whether governments should pay ransom demands to terrorists. Our country's Prime Minister has stated unequivocally that "Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists."
This sounds like the right moral stance to take, however, there has been evidence that Canada has had some backroom deals with terrorists in the past to secure release of hostages. While the government officially denies they've doe so, cash, development aid, or other concessions are bargained through back channels or third parties.
Both the UN and the G8 have adopted the directive: We do not negotiate with terrorists.
Yet, a number of European countries, particularly France and Germany, have found ways of channelling money to militant groups in exchange for the safety of their citizens. In 2014 the New York Times published an investigation that Al-Qaida and its affiliates received at least $125 million from kidnappings since 2008, with about half of it collected in 2013 alone. And having had great success, the ransom demands have escalated.
Abu Sayyef demanded 8 million for each Canadian, and Ridsdel was beheaded after the ransom deadline passed. There's the ethical problem of caving in to the terrorists' demands, with the money going to finance terrorist groups that will use the funds to terrorize and kill thousands of other innocent people.. 8 million dollars would buy a lot of AK-47's. It also makes the world a more dangerous place and increases the risk of increasing the chances of kidnapping while traveling abroad.
On the other hand, there's not a lot of evidence to support the belief that a "no ransom" policy will deter terrorist groups. Both the US and Britain have hardline, no concessions policies, yet they are the countries most frequently targeted with terrorist demands.
The strongest argument against paying terrorists is the moral one; by considering where those funds are being directed.