Ten Years after Helsinki
Hijacking's Spotlight on Rights Question
As American hostages endured their hijacking ordeal in Beirut, their captors spoke of the “violation of human rights” of 735 fellow Shiite Moslems who had been captured in Lebanon and removed to Israel by the withdrawing Israeli army.1 The hijackers made no mention of the human rights of their hostages, who were being held under threat of death unless Israel released the Shiite prisoners. Even the American news media, in its copious coverage of the situation, did not describe the hostages' plight in terms of human rights.
The reason why one person's unjustified detention is spoken of as a criminal or barbarous act while another's is couched in more legalistic terms depends less on the victim's treatment than ...