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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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“We Do Not Negotiate with Terrorists!”—But what Could we Expect?

Keywords: terrorism, hostage takings, negotiation, conflict resolution

Abstract: Terrorist hostage-takings confront authorities with the decision whether or not to concede to terrorist demands. It is often argued that concessions should not be made because terrorists are irrational and neither willing to nor capable of resolving conflict peacefully. We argue that these assumptions about terrorists are not empirically supported and that terrorists should be motivated to reach and uphold agreements to achieve their goals. We analyzed data from the ITERATE database (Mickolus et al., 2006) on terrorist hostage-takings that occurred between 1983 and 2005. Results showed that even a partial fulfilment of terrorist demands reduces the likelihood of casualties significantly. This effect is mediated by terrorist cooperation. Our study furthers the knowledge on the consequences of authority decision making in terrorist hostage-takings. Rather than advocating for negotiating with terrorists under all conditions, however, we argue that our findings may inform the decision whether or not concessions should be made.

Marc Mertes, TU Dortmund University

Jens Mazei, TU Dortmund University

Joachim Hüffmeier, TU Dortmund University


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