Obama to Soften Ransom Policy for Hostage Families

The U.S. government will no longer threaten to prosecute families who try to negotiate with the captors of Americans being held hostage overseas or pay ransom to win their release, U.S. media reports said.

President Barack Obama is expected to soften a U.S. policy when he releases a broad review of U.S. hostage guidelines Wednesday at the White House alongside several hostage families.

The six-month review was prompted by sharp criticism of the Obama administration by some victims’ relatives, who said they had been threatened with prosecution if they tried to raise money to pay a ransom.

U.S. officials say new administrative measures will improve coordination and communication with hostage families and help facilitate communications with kidnappers on behalf of families seeking the safe return of hostages.

But, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that the president would not change the prohibition against making concessions to hostage-takers.

Several U.S. hostages have been killed in the past year in the Middle East, including some beheaded in videos released by Islamic State militants.

Unlike some European allies, the United States insists it will not make concessions to hostage-takers and has a strict no-payments strategy, saying ransoms only encourage further kidnappings and put funds in the hands of the militants.

But last year it exchanged five Taliban detainees held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to secure the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held five years by Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Latino Public Radio