Staff Care workshop: Managing Kidnap and Ransom Situations

by People In Aid | People In Aid - UK
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 10:19 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A staff member has just been abducted, what is the first thing you do?
You have just been abducted, what is the first thing you do?

This Kidnap and Ransom workshop will explore answers to the above, both from the perspective of aid workers as well advice on what HR and management staff should do in the immediate aftermath of an incident and from then on.

Supported by specialist insurance company VanBreda International, this event offers practical examples of security issues and how they have been dealt with effectively by others, as well as touching on issues like family liaison, preparing staff and colleagues and more.

We will hear from colleagues at Greenpeace who have kindly agreed to share their case study and the lessons learnt from the ordeal the “Artic 30 Team” went through in Russia, exploring the challenges and realities behind the management of such a critical incident.

As well as the external management issues, Camilla Carr and Jon James, victims of kidnap themselves, will be offering an illustrated account of their time in captivity, discussing the mental, emotional and physical effects of their incident. Camilla’s sister will also join them to share with us the perspective of the family and give her own account of these trying events and the impact it has had on their families. This will be used to inform family liaison practices and policies.

Their testimony will be followed by an experiential workshop exploring coping strategies. Previous participants at workshops facilitated by Camilla and Jon have complimented their presentation of ‘coping skills’ and the simple way in which their information is presented, ensuring information and advice can be shared with colleagues easily. 


Jon James and Camilla Carr.

In April 1997 Jon James and Camilla Carr drove to Chechnya to help set up a centre for war- traumatised children in the capital Grozny. Most Western aid workers had pulled out of the region the previous year due to the massacre of six Red Cross workers six months prior to the ceasefire in August 1996.

On July 2nd they were kidnapped at gunpoint from the house they were staying in inspite of having armed security protection. They were held for over 14 months in various locations including an underground concrete room, cellars and a sauna, with no natural light or fresh air and only able to talk in whispers.

They experienced everything from threat of execution, rape and mental torture to moments of compassion and kindness. They survived by creating a dialogue with their captors and using tools such as Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation and humour. Through the nightmare months, living in a pressure cooker of constant fear and continual disappointments when they were told they were going to be released, they grew stronger as a partnership.

The pair were released on 20th September 1998 following the intervention of Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky. He told Camilla and Jon that no ransom was paid, they just used a ‘series of argument and methodology’ although in 2011 Roman Abramovich said he had paid their ransom.

Camilla and Jon tell the story of how they survived in their book ‘The Sky is Always There’. They used the writing of the book as part of their healing process.

Jon - ‘We used softness to overcome hardness’

Camilla - ‘The captors could never touch my essence, my body is only part of who I am. My spirit will always be free.’