Practice Relating to Rule 96. Hostage-Taking
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) states: “The taking of hostages is prohibited.” It also states that hostage-taking is prohibited in case of occupation.
The manual further provides that hostage-taking is a grave breach of IHL.
Germany’s Soldiers’ Manual (2006) states: “Reprisals against the civilian population are prohibited, likewise taking of hostages, collective penalties, pillage as well as measures of intimidation or terrorization.”
Germany’s Law Introducing the International Crimes Code (2002) provides for the punishment of anyone who, in connection with an international or non-international armed conflict, “takes hostage a person who is to be protected under international humanitarian law”.
In 2010, in the Chechen Refugee case, Germany’s Federal Administrative Court was called upon to decide whether a Russian refugee claimant from Chechnya had to be excluded from refugee protection because there were serious reasons for considering that he had committed a war crime in Chechnya in 2002 by killing two Russian soldiers and taking a Russian officer hostage. The Court considered who can be a victim of the war crime of taking hostages. The Court held:
[Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions] inter alia
criminalizes … the taking of hostages who are not directly participating in hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their weapons and persons who have been placed hors de combat
by illness, injury, capture or any other reason. This provision thus also considers acts as war crimes which are directed against soldiers.
The Court also held:
[T]he assumption that the abduction of the Russian officer constituted the war crime of hostage taking under Art. 8 para. 2 sub-para. c no. III of the  ICC Statute is difficult to sustain. … [T]aking civilians as hostages and taking members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms or who are hors de combat
as hostages can constitute a war crime. … [In the present case,] the victim [a Russian officer] was not taken hostage … at a point in time when the victim had surrendered or laid down his weapons. Rather, the attack against the victim with the purpose of taking him hostage was carried out at a moment when the victim was still carrying a weapon and when the Russian soldiers accompanying the victim responded to the attack by firing their weapons.
In 1995, in the context of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, all political parties in the German Parliament requested the release of hostages.