Defending Nationals Abroad: Assessing the Lawfulness of Forcible Hostage Rescues

Kristen Eichensehr, Yale Law School


On March 23, 2007, Iranian forces captured fifteen British sailors who were on patrol in the Persian Gulf. After extended negotiations, the hostages were finally released on April 4, touted as an Easter gift to Britain from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The soldiers’ two weeks in captivity, though substantial, pale in comparison to the fourteen and a half months of captivity suffered by those taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979. The fifty-two American hostages were released after 444 days in captivity when Ronald Reagan took office as President in January 1981.