It is important to understand, which measures the society is prepared to take and which ones it strongly denies
The Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov stated on Friday at the session of the State Duma that the Russian law does not stipulate the use of counter-terrorist methods, when federal authorities could take terrorists' relatives hostage in response to terrorist acts. Russian deputies were shocked with the statement from the prosecutor general, although they promised to consider the issue, if it would be added on the agenda. At any rate, the deputies did not understand, if the federal authorities intended to take hostages too, or was it just an intimidation to bring pressure on terrorists.
The speech from the Prosecutor General became a new trend in the anti-terrorist struggle, Russian style. It is supposed that in the event of a terrorist attack, Russian special services will take hostage of terrorists' relatives to use them in attempts to free hostages. German counter-guerrilla units and Israeli special services used to practice the tactics during WWII. The measure was rather efficient 60 years ago. However, terrorist acts in the Middle East have not reduced in number because of the counter-terrorist threat.
Ustinov suggested the practice should be used in Russia's Caucasus. The deputies strongly disagreed with the prosecutor. “I think that the prosecutor has definitely hurried to put forward such a suggestion. Eye for an eye is not a correct suggestion to make, it is illegal,” vice speaker Lubov Sliska told the Izvestia. “If the suggestion is submitted as an amendment, the Duma will consider it,” Duma speaker Boris Grizlov said.
”I think that the prosecutor general was a little bit wrong when he said special forces need to take hostages in return, - a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry said. - He said in his speech that such a measure was necessary to take against the background of current circumstances, as the Russian law does not stipulate the property confiscation. Most likely, Ustinov was talking about some sort of economic sanctions, as it is practiced in Israel, for example.”
The police authorities were also confused in their comments about the statement from the prosecutor general. “Submitting such a draft law to the State Duma would be utopia. What would be the difference between us and terrorists, if we start shooting people for their relation with Shamil Basayev or Aslan Maskhadov? One has to acknowledge that the measure could help cut the number of members in illegal armed groups. However, it will only provoke a very negative reaction from those, who is still loyal to us,” a spokesman for the department for struggle against organized crime told the Izvestia.
A source at the Office of the Prosecutor General clarified several points of Vladimir Ustinov's speech. “It was not a report about pending bills; it was more of a public opinion probe. It is important to understand, which measures the society is prepared to take and which ones it strongly denies,” a high-ranking official said. “One should not take those words literally. Probably, it would be good to practice certain restrictions against terrorists' relatives. It is possible to detain them for 48 hours – the time will be enough to search their homes, ask questions to neighbors and friends,” said he.
”I personally think that such a counteraction is a conditional notion. A state must not adopt terrorists' methods of fighting or threaten to kill someone. At least, one will have to issue adequate laws, for it will not be a state otherwise,” Aleksey Makarkin, deputy general director of the political technologies center said. “It will be also possible to make terrorists' relatives participate in negotiations and take them to crime scenes,” said he.
Taking enemy's relatives hostage is not a new idea. The tactics was widely practiced during the civil war. Bolsheviks legalized the hostage-taking officially during the so-called “red terror” period. Hostages were either shot, exchanged or released depending on circumstances.
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