Kidnapping – Reporters in Yemen seen as high-value targets


August 7 , 2013

Source: Al Jazeera

A video confirming fears that a Dutch couple had been kidnapped in Yemen has increased concerns about the risks facing journalists in the country

Reporters-in-Yemen-seen-as-high-value-targets

Reporters in Yemen seen as high-value targets

A video confirming fears that a Dutch couple had been kidnapped in Yemen has increased concerns about the risks facing journalists in the country.

Evidence that Dutch freelance journalist Judith Spiegel and her husband Boudewijn Berendsen had been seized was posted on YouTube in mid-July.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is warning that reporters are now seen as “high-value targets” in a wave of kidnapping that has plagued the country, while Reporters Without Borders has voiced alarm at the growing threat to media staff.

In the the minute-and-a-half video, Spiegel and Berendsen – missing since June – appear scared and tearful as they plead for help.

“My name is Boudewijn Berendsen…”

“And my name is Judith Spiegel. We are kidnapped, here in Yemen. We have a huge problem,” they tell the camera.

Negotiations to secure their release are not proceeding well, Spiegel adds: “So far, nothing has been done. No reaction, no results. These people are armed. If there’s no solution, they will kill us.”

It remains unclear who is holding the couple, who claim on the video that their captors were demanding progress within 10 days, but do not specify what their demands are.

Their abductors’ deadline has since expired.

Premonition

The freelance journalist and stringer for multiple Dutch media knew she risked kidnap, writing in a column for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad in March: “When I’m lying awake at night, I realise that I’m nowhere safe in this country…

“The idea of having to spend months with these extremists troubles me, and I don’t want to appear in a movie with a Kalashnikov pointed to my head, as happened to Dominik [Neubauer, an Austrian student who appeared in a video in February 2013], ” she wrote.

Soon after Spiegel and Berendsen were reported missing, a Sanaa police official told Yemeni press it was likely they had been kidnapped .

Both the Yemeni and Dutch government remain tight-lipped about the case, and the journalist’s parents have released few details about what is known.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign affairs minister, posted on his Facebook page a short statement claiming that victims of abduction always have the ministry’s full attention and that it was important to remain calm.

In a a short written statement, Spiegel’s parents said they knew the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dealing with the case.

“We realise it’s [the ministry’s] policy that no information is released, and that when it does, it’ll be us knowing first.

“Of course, we find this very difficult, but our only priority is that Judith and Boudewijn are released as soon as possible and are in safety.”

The Yemeni human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman called on her Facebook page for the country’s president and prime minister to direct their personal attention towards efforts to effect the pair’s release.

“If not for Judith and her husband, for the sake of the reputation of Yemen that’s worsening with each passing day this couple is kidnapped,” she wrote.

Wave of kidnapping

Anthropologist Marina de Regt, who has worked and lived in Yemen and knows Spiegel, told Al Jazeera that kidnapping was now a prominent feature of life in the country where an old “tradition” has grown into a lucrative business.

“The situation has become increasingly dangerous since the Arab Spring in 2011,” said de Regt.

Recent victims include a Finnish couple and Neubauer, kidnapped by al-Qaeda fighters then freed four months later. A week ago, an Iranian embassy employee was seized by gunmen.

“It’s a result of the Yemeni government, not being able to hold on to its people, which is devastating for the country,” explained de Regt.

“The Netherlands and Yemen have a very good relationship, and are probably working very closely to solve this. Still, every case differs… [and that is] what makes it so difficult to negotiate.”

The CPJ argues that “disgruntled tribesmen have resorted to abductions to pressure the government to release imprisoned family members and extort political and financial compensation. Some captives have been sold to, or abducted by, al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants”.

Quirine Eijkman, a researcher at the Counterterrorism Centre of Leiden University , told Al Jazeera: “Over the past two years, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has grown stronger, making Yemen a more fragile country than it already was.

“It’s not for nothing that the United States started employing drone strikes in Yemen. Although I believe that because of these drone attacks, bad sentiment and anger towards the West has grown.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned the abduction, and media outlets have expressed their concern for Spiegel and Boudewijn and are following the case closely.

Rebecca Murray, a journalist who has worked for Al Jazeera from Yemen, praised her Dutch colleague: “[Judith] is one of the few foreigners here that has ventured beyond compound walls and the sensational headlines, to show the world what Yemen and Yemenis are really like, and the daily hardships they face.”

Murray stressed that all the Yemenis she knows – including local journalists – were outraged at the kidnapping.

“There is always a nagging fear you could be abducted on your way to or from the field,” she said.

“We are definitely watching each others’ backs more closely, evaluating risk and tightening security precautions. But as journalists, we still need to go out to get the real story.”

 

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Providing assistance in cases of international parental child abductions


August 15, 2012

Source: The Washington Post

More than 1,300 children living in the United States were victims of international parental abductions in 2011 — taken to a foreign country and kept there without one parent’s permission.

As a member of the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, it is Scott Renner’s job to provide assistance to the parent whose child has been taken away without their consent to either Mexico or Canada.

 

In this role, Renner and his staff help aggrieved parents contact the proper authorities in Mexico or Canada, get legal assistance, locate their children, negotiate voluntary settlements or begin the judicial process for the child’s return so that the issue of custody can be resolved by a court in the U.S. Renner does not make decisions on who should have custody, but steps into the breach to help parents who often have nowhere else to turn.

“We don’t judge their cases. It’s not about who is a better parent,” said Renner. “A judge in Mexico is supposed to decide if the child is to be sent back to the United States, and a judge in the United States will decide which parent should have custody.”

Renner said the cases are often difficult, contentious and emotional. They involve navigating different judicial systems, different legal definitions of custody and many other obstacles.

“We don’t deal with happy families and the cases are often complicated,” said Renner. “It may not always turn out well, but we give them a voice, explain the laws and procedures and help them as best we can.”

About one-third of all reported international parental child abductions from the United States involve Mexico. According to the latest statistics, 1,367 children were reported abducted by parents and taken to foreign countries in 2011, with 465 of those going to Mexico. Mexico has been a focal point for a number of reasons, including strong cultural and social and economic ties with the U.S., many of cross-border relationships, a great deal of immigration back and forth and a very long border.

Renner said some abducted children are never returned, some cases take years to resolve and others are settled relatively quickly. He said improved cooperation with Mexican authorities has helped, with 180 children returned to the United States from Mexico in 2010 and 250 in 2011.

“One of the biggest problems we have is locating the kids. Mexico is a chaotic country,” said Renner. “Kids can be missing for eight to 10 years.”

In one case, Renner said, a child was abducted by a parent in the United States and taken to a town in Mexico that had barricaded itself from the drug traffickers. He said a local judge was “brave enough’ to pursue the matter, negotiated with the child’s grandmother and got an agreement to send the youngster back to the mother in the United States.

Renner became the first chief of a newly-created Mexico and Canada branch in September 2010 shortly after the United States’ relationship with Mexico on parental abductions hit a low point. The State Department had cited Mexico as “not compliant” with the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention, a treaty designed to return an abducted child promptly to his country of habitual residence.

Colleagues said Renner promoted coordination and collaboration with Mexico, and helped improve a strained relationship, expedite new cases and resolve many of those that had been backlogged.

Beth Payne, director of the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues, said Renner “worked on the diplomatic level to change way we dealt with Mexican officials on child abduction issues.”

“He traveled to Mexico, worked with different groups, met with government officials, established personal relationships and strong connections, talked about what was in their interest and ours, and got positive solutions to many cases,” said Payne. “He has created the model that we are now following in the rest of the office.”

Renner, a Foreign Service Officer, joined the State Department in 1997 and has had assignments in Nigeria, Chile, Columbia and Poland. This month, he will be promoted from his current job to serve as division chief for Western Hemisphere Outgoing Abductions.

Renner said his job, like many of his other assignments, have given him a chance to “help people solve their problems.”

“I have always been motivated to make a difference on a personal level,” said Renner. “It is really rewarding for me and I am getting paid to do it.”

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Abducted: Man sees sons in Egypt after abduction by ex-wife


Source: Dalje.com

CAIRO, Jan. 17 (UPI) — A U.S. man visited his two sons in Cairo during the weekend, the first time he had seen them since they were abducted by his ex-wife .


Colin Bower was granted full custody of his children in 2008 after his divorce from ex-wife Mirvat El Nady. Using fake Egyptian passports she kidnapped the boys in New York and brought them to Cairo, the Egyptian Bikya Masr news agency reported.

Egypt has no legal arrangement with the U.S. in matters of parental abduction, and it was six months of diplomatic negotiation, aided by U.S. Senator John Kerry, which provided Bower a chance to see his sons Noor, 7, and Ramsy, 9.

He called the 90-minute visit a “godsend.” U.S. Embassy officials and his ex-wide were present to observe the visit.

Bower said he suspects his ex-wide and her family were protected by former president Mubarak’s regime, allowing his sons to stay in Egypt with their mother. In 2009 he took legal action against the airline EgyptAir for their failure to notice his ex-wife and sons used false identification when they flew out of New York.

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What to do if you are kidnapped -Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Guidelines


The chances of your being kidnapped or taken hostage are small. If it does happen, your chances of survival are high.

Kidnapping is a terrifying experience, but you probably possess more personal resources than you think to cope with the situation. Remember, you are of value to those who are holding you only if you are alive, and they want to keep you that way. Your best defense is passive cooperation. The more time passes, the better your chances of being released alive.

Note: 

For the CAC course (Conduct after Capture) contact ABP World Group. The objective of this course is to better prepare civilians for a kidnap/hostage situation and improve their chances of getting home alive.

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Kidnapping can happen anywhere –

you can be taken off the street, from a car, or from your hotel room or residence. The best opportunity for escape is in the beginning, during the confusion of the apprehension while you are still in a public place. If escape is impossible or too risky, you should nevertheless try to cause as much commotion as safely possible to draw attention to the situation. You need to make others aware that an abduction has taken place so that the authorities are notified and the search can begin. Otherwise, it could be hours or days before your absence is reported.

Once you have been forced into a vehicle, you may be blindfolded, beaten (to cause unconsciousness), drugged, or forced to lie face down on the floor of the vehicle. In some instances, hostages have been forced into trunks or specially built compartments for transporting contraband. If drugs are administered, do not resist. Their purpose will be to sedate you and make you more manageable. It is probably better to be drugged than to be beaten unconscious. If you are conscious, follow your captors’ instructions.

While being confined and transported, do not struggle. Calm yourself mentally and concentrate on surviving. Attempt to visualize the route being taken, make a mental note of turns, street noise, smells, etc. Try to keep track of the amount of time spent between points. You will be asked questions about this after your release in an effort to determine where you were held.


Once you have arrived at your destination, you may be placed in a temporary holding area before being moved again to a more permanent detention site. If you are interrogated:

  • Retain a sense of pride but act cooperative.
  • Divulge only information that cannot be used against you. Make every effort to avoid embarrassing the U.S. and the host government.
  • Do not antagonize your interrogator with obstinate behavior.
  • Concentrate on surviving. If you are to be used as a bargaining tool or to obtain ransom, you will be kept alive.

After reaching what you may presume to be your permanent detention site (you may be moved several more times), quickly settle into the situation.

  • Be observant. Notice the details of the room, the sounds of activity in the building and determine the layout of the building by studying what is visible to you. Listen for sounds through walls, windows or out in the streets, and try to distinguish between smells. Note the number, names, physical description, accents, habits , and rank structure of your captors. Try to memorize this information so that you can report it after your release.
  • Know your captors. Memorize their schedule, look for patterns of behavior to be used to your advantage, and identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Use this information to assess opportunities to escape.
  • Expect to be accused of being an intelligence agent and to be interrogated intensively. Do not admit to any accusations. Keep your answers short and don’t volunteer information or make unnecessary overtures.
  • Try to establish a rapport with your captors. Family is a universal subject. So are sports and many hobbies. Your goal should be to get the hostage takers to view you as a real person, rather than simply an object. Listen actively to the terrorists’ feelings and concerns, but never praise, participate in, or debate their “cause.” If you know your captors’ language, use it. Ask them to teach you their language.
  • Speak normally. Don’t complain. Avoid being belligerent and comply with all orders and instructions. Once a level of rapport or communication is achieved, try asking for items that will increase your personal comfort. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need or want such as medicines, books, or papers. Make requests in a reasonable, low-key manner.
  • Plan on a lengthy stay and devise a way to keep track of the passage of time. If isolated, you can approximate time by noting changes in temperature between night and day, the frequency and intensity of outside noises (traffic, birds), and by observing the alertness of guards.
  • Establish a daily schedule of mental as well as physical exercise. If your movement is extremely limited, use isometric and flexing exercises to keep your muscles toned. To maintain your strength, eat what you are given even if it does not look appetizing and you don’t feel hungry. Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • If you detect the presence of other hostages in the same building, try to devise ways to communicate.

During interrogation, do not be uncooperative, antagonistic, or hostile towards your captors. Captives who display this type of behavior are often held longer or become the object of torture or punishment. Take a simple, tenable position and stick to it. Be polite and keep your temper. Give short answers. Talk freely about nonessential matters, but be guarded when conversations turn to matters of substance. Don’t be lulled by a friendly approach. Remember, one terrorist may play “Good Guy” and one “Bad Guy.” This is the most common interrogation technique.

Watch for signs of “Stockholm Syndrome” which occurs when the captive, due to the close proximity and the constant pressures involved, begins to relate to, and empathize with, the captors. In some cases, this relationship has resulted in the hostage becoming sympathetic to the point that he/she actively participates in the activities of the group. Establish a friendly rapport with your captors, but maintain your personal dignity and do not compromise your integrity.

If forced to present terrorist demands to authorities, either in writing or on tape, state clearly that the demands are from your captors. Avoid making a plea on your own behalf.

Be patient, as hostage negotiations are often difficult and time consuming. Remember, your chances of survival increase with time. Most episodes of kidnapping or hostage-taking end with no loss of life or physical injury to the captive.  Eventually you will probably be released or rescued. Do not try to escape unless you are certain of success. If you are able to escape, go first to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to seek protection. If you cannot reach either, go to a host government or friendly government office.

If an attempt is made to rescue you, keep a low profile and immediately follow all instructions. Rescue will generally be attempted only after negotiations have failed. That means that lives of hostages, terrorists, and rescue forces are all at risk during the rescue. You don’t want to be shot in the confusion while the rescue team identifies the terrorists, who may try to disguise themselves as hostages. To protect yourself, follow these rules:

  • DO NOT RUN. Drop to the floor and remain still. If that is not possible, cross your arms on your chest, bow your head, and stand still. Make no sudden moves that a tense rescuer may interpret as hostile.
  • Wait for instructions and obey all instructions you are given.
  • Don’t be upset if a rescuer isn’t sure whether you are a terrorist or hostage. Even if you are handcuffed and searched, do not resist. Just wait for the confusion to clear.

Note:

For the CAC course (Conduct after Capture) contact ABP World Group. The objective of this course is to better prepare civilians for a kidnap/hostage situation and improve their chances of getting home alive.

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