Shaheen named honorary co-chair on Commission to Combat Hostage Taking and Wrongful Detention
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committees, announced that she’s been named an honorary co-chair on a bipartisan commission with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), tasked with combating the rise in hostage taking and wrongful detention around the world. The commission includes returned hostages, their family members, former law enforcement and national security officials, diplomats, academics and journalists, all of whom have a long track record working on hostage and detainee issues. Shaheen has long been an advocate for Americans unjustly imprisoned or held hostage abroad.
“The plight of Americans unjustly detained abroad is excruciating for both them and their loved ones. The totality of the U.S. government must be brought to bear to explore every measure to ensure the safe return of all unjustly detained Americans,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan commission brings together advocates, journalists, government officials and experts to help sharpen U.S. policy and actions to ensure the safe return of all Americans and put an end to the use of Americans as political tools of our adversaries. I’m proud to serve as an honorary co-chair of this important effort to help bring Americans home.”
The commission will work to explore and consider tools to strengthen U.S. Policy with the goal of:
Studying the efficacy of different strategies to respond to different kinds of hostage-taking actors;
Proposing new U.S. government policies that could deter further hostage -taking and unlawful detention of Americans; and
Developing additional tools and authorities that will empower U.S. officials and the families of hostages.
In addition to the announcement of the commission, yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved bipartisan, bicameral legislation co-led by Shaheen that would establish a national day recognizing U.S. hostages and their families. The US Hostage and Wrongful Detainee Day Act would establish a national day that would call increased attention to Americans unjustly held abroad while highlighting the urgency to bring home wrongfully detained Americans. The legislation would also establish an official Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag.
“Establishing a day and having a specific flag to recognize Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained is an important way the United States can remind the public that these hostages and their families are not forgotten. The unanimous approval of this legislation in the U.S. Senate reaffirms our unwavering commitment to do everything in our power to bring Americans home and to support their families as they endure the unimaginable. I’ll keep working on policies to address these issues, help families and most critically – secure the freedom of Americans detained abroad, wherever that may be,” said Senator Shaheen.
Among her many efforts to help Americans unjustly imprisoned or held hostage, Shaheen helps lead the Supporting Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year. The legislation authorizes the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department to cover the costs of travel to Washington, D.C. for family of Americans who are wrongfully or unlawfully detained abroad. It also encourages the Department to make mental health support available to detainees and their families. Shaheen is a leading advocate for families of hostages, and has worked to see the ISIS terrorists culpable in the murders of New Hampshire native and journalist, James Foley, as well as Americans Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, stand trial in the United States for their crimes.