Resources for families of hostages and wrongfully detained Americans

After Paul Whelan was arrested on false charges in Moscow on December 28, 2018, his family members had to learn how to handle media and navigate the US government in DC while they advocated for the US to negotiate for Paul's release from prison in Russia; jobs for which they were completely unprepared when Paul was detained. As a result of their experiences, his family wrote the following guides which might help you in your own journey to get help and bring your loved one home. Our situation, decisions, and options may not be the same as yours, but this will give you a starting point.

Unfortunately, wrongful detention is still being used as a tool of coercion against the US, and American citizens are still being used as pawns in 'hostage-diplomacy'. Please know that you are not alone. There are others who have gone down this path before you and are experiencing similar situations now. There is help available.

We have also included links to very helpful organizations for hostages, the wrongfully detained, and their families and friends. And do reach out to us (you can contact Elizabeth Whelan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if you have any questions.

Wrongfully Detained US Citizens Family Resource Guide

Wrongfully Detained US Citizens Family Resource Guide-hostage diplomacy American arrested overseasWhether your loved one has just been detained, or you are already trying to navigate the US government to get help, this guide may provide some additional ideas and assistance. This family resource guide charts our decisions and responses to events from the moment of Paul Whelan's arrest in Moscow, giving you advice on everything from how to interact with Members of Congress and the Department of State, to how to advocate in DC and manage the support for your loved one--and yourself--throughout the detention.

This guide is written from the viewpoint of a family of someone falsely arrested and wrongfully detained in a case of hostage-diplomacy, and many of the same issues are faced by families of wrongful detention, overseas disappearances, and hostage-taking by non-state actors.

Wrongfully Detained US Citizens Family Resource Guide

The Hostage’s Family and the Media

guide to handling media for families of hostages and wrongfully detained US citizens and AmericansThis guide, written by our family spokesperson and brother David, reflects his accumulated experience of 3 years of interactions with media and advocacy on behalf of his brother, Paul Whelan, still wrongfully detained in Russia. It contains his comments and suggestions, advice, and considerations for you to review as you make your own decisions about media engagement.

About this guide:

Read online:

You can also download an epub to read in Calibre, Kobo, Adobe Digital Editions, etc.

Hostage US

HOSTAGE US supports US citizens families arrested false charges wrongful detention hostage overseasHostage US is a non-profit organization that provides support to American hostages, wrongful detainees, and their families through care, information, guidance, and access to pro bono professional services. Hostage US helps families cope with the challenges of a hostage-taking and helps former hostages and detainees rebuild their lives when they return home. Hostage US does not get involved in the operational response to hostage situations, but they can make the frightening and lonely ordeal much more bearable.
Hostage US support is provided free of charge and on a fully confidential basis. They are independent of any outside interests and only focus on the needs of hostages and their families.
Hostage US

James W. Foley Legacy Foundation

James W. Foley Legacy Foundation hostage advocacy wrongful detention journalists Americans US CitizensThe James W. Foley Legacy Foundation advocates for the freedom of all Americans held hostage abroad and promotes the safety of journalists worldwide.
We advocate for American Hostage Freedom by:
• Supporting individual hostages, wrongful detainees, and their families.
• Raising awareness about US citizens kidnapped or wrongfully detained abroad.
• Conducting annual research to ensure US hostage policy is prioritizing the return of our citizens held abroad and assisting their families.
• Engaging with the US Congress, White House, FBI, and Department of State to push for necessary improvements in US hostage policy.
• Collaborating with third-party experts and partner organizations assisting families in their efforts to free their loved ones.

We promote Journalist Safety by:
• Developing and implementing James W. Foley journalist safety curricula for both graduate and undergraduate university journalism programs.
• Increasing access to safety training, medical insurance, and security information for freelance journalists through A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance and other journalism and press freedom partnerships, including annual safety training grants.
James W. Foley Legacy Foundation


Amer Fakhoury Foundation

Amer Fakhoury FoundationThe Amer Fakhoury Foundation fights for all victims of illegal detention as well as victims living under radical and corrupted governments. We look to provide advocacy, emotional, and financial support to the victims and their families. We work to ensure anti-torture laws are created and implemented in countries that enforce torture on helpless victims.

Our founders are the daughters of the late Amer Fakhoury. Amer was kidnapped and held hostage by Hezbollah, a recognized terrorist organization. Separated by force from his family, and under extreme physical and emotional torture, Amer was coerced to sign false documents which were later used against him to keep him imprisoned in Lebanon. After several months of his family and the United States Government fighting for his freedom, Amer was finally released on March 19th, 2020. However, due to the torture, abuse, and maltreatment he received during his unlawful detention, he passed away shortly after his return home. Together, we will fight tirelessly to advocate for the release or rescue of hostage victims.
Amer Fakhoury Foundation

Pod Hostage Diplomacy

pod hostage diplomacy daren nair interviews family wrongfully detained overseasHost Daren Nair interviews families of the wrongfully detained and hostages worldwide, and his podcast interviews are an excellent way to hear of how other families are navigating their fight to bring their loved ones home.
Daren says, "We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained worldwide. Together with their families, we share their stories and let you know how you can help."
For families, Pod Hostage Diplomacy is a potential outlet for telling their loved one's story, as well as a source of inspiration and fellowship with other families.
Pod Hostage Diplomacy