Medieval hostage-taking and prisoner swaps are back in vogue | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Medieval hostage-taking and prisoner swaps are back in vogue

Do its member states take the UN Charter seriously any more? The United Nations was originally set up “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. However, since those heady days when international law commanded respect and due reverence from East to West, it now seems that the Charter is no longer worth the paper it’s written on.

An alarming demonstration of this is provided by the number of innocent citizens, many with dual nationality, who are being held hostage by various countries around the world. Indeed, there appears to be an outbreak of hostage-taking by states who are using people as bargaining chips or, in the case of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, something much, much worse.

This was exactly how business used to be conducted in Europe during the Middle Ages when hostage-taking was the norm in society. The recent proliferation of this odious phenomenon, though, should be viewed with alarm as it is becoming a political as well as a legal issue today, in the 21st century.

The latest victim is an old friend of mine, American-born journalist Marzieh Hashemi, 59, who has been detained in the US for reasons as yet unknown. The popular anchor for Press TV, the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, was seized by the FBI as she checked in at St Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. From there she was transferred by the Bureau to a cell in Washington, DC; as of Wednesday, her son Hossein said that the family had “no idea” what led to her arrest. “Everyone we ask is very vague and the information is still limited,” he told Associated Press.