Practice Relating to Rule 96. Hostage-Taking
Norway’s Military Penal Code (1902), as amended in 1981, provides:
Anyone who contravenes or is accessory to the contravention of provisions relating to the protection of persons or property laid down in … the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 … [and in] the two additional protocols to these Conventions … is liable to imprisonment.
Norway’s Penal Code (1902), as amended in 2008, states: “Any person is liable to punishment for a war crime who in connection with an armed conflict … takes a protected person hostage.”
The Penal Code further states: “A protected person is a person who does not take, or who no longer takes, active part in hostilities, or who is otherwise protected under international law.”
In its judgement in the Repak case in 2008, concerning crimes committed against civilian non-combatant Serbs in an internment camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, resulting from which the defendant was convicted on 11 counts of the war crime of unlawfully confining a protected person, the District Court of Oslo held:
82. … Article 3 [common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions] prohibits the taking of hostages. Depriving civilian Orthodox Serbs of their liberty, when an important purpose of this deprivation of freedom was to intern them to use them for exchanges with Croats and Bosniaks that had been interned by the Serbs, would be contrary to Article 3, both because of the ethnic selection and because there was a hostage situation in that the detainees were intended used for exerting pressure and/or for exchanges during the conflict. The defendant was aware of the unlawful purpose.
246. AA was a civilian non-combatant and was held in Dretelj [internment camp] with a view to exchange. The defendant was aware that this was unlawful. …
261. As far as the defendant Repak is concerned, the Court considers it an aggravating element that the defendant had middle leader tasks that included, inter alia,
finding civilian Serbs and taking the most important of them to Dretelj primarily with the purpose of subsequent detainee exchanges.