Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Global Impact: Britain's UN Ambassador Urges Security Council to Cease Payment of Ransom

According to The Associated Press, Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday (December 4) to adopt a resolution calling on all countries not to pay ransom to kidnappers who use the money to finance terrorist groups.

Lyall Grant said his government estimates that over the last three years more than US$70 million have been provided to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from ransom paid to kidnappers.

The UN envoy said he circulated a draft resolution to council members on Tuesday (December 3) calling on the 193 UN member states "to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments."

A UN resolution adopted weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States already bans all countries from financing terrorism. Yet, Britain's ambassador said the proposed new resolution highlights "the increasing threat" from kidnapping for ransom to benefit terrorists.

COMMENT: Lyall Grant said he hopes the Security Council will approve the resolution this month, with support from all 15 members.

The British resolution follows up on the communique issued by leaders of eight major industrial powers at their summit in Northern Ireland in June.

The G-8 communiqué expressed concern at "the increasingly fragmented and geographically diverse threat posed by terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and its affiliates," and "the threat posed by kidnapping for ransom by terrorists."

Although the international community has made "significant progress in combating the flow of funds to terrorist organizations," the G-8 estimated that al-Qaeda-affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups worldwide have collected tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments since 2010.

The leaders of the US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan said they "unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists" and welcome efforts to prevent kidnapping and secure the safe release of hostages without paying ransom.

A UN diplomat said there has been an upward trend in the overall number of kidnappings by terrorist groups, and an average of over $2 million is being paid per foreign hostage.

Ransom payments have become the single largest source of income for northern Africa's al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP), the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The draft resolution only addresses ransom to finance terrorism, not criminal kidnapping for ransom or piracy for financial gain.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.