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The illegal killing of Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden’s death proved what he said in life: that the United States couldn’t kill or arrest him within its own laws
Curtis Doebbler , Tuesday 3 May 2011
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Whatever one might think of Osama Bin Laden (whether a terrorist for his alleged role in killing an estimated 5000 Westerners, or a freedom fighter against US imperialism that has killed an estimated two million Afghanis and Iraqis), his targeted killing was a violation of international law.

International law prohibits targeted killed in several ways.

First, a targeted killing, as this one was, is carried out often by the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of a foreign state. In this case, the president of Pakistan has made it clear that his country did not authorise the US action. Instead, the US sent about two-dozen troops in helicopters into Pakistani airspace and attacked a house in a civilian neighbourhood without the permission of the Pakistani government. As such, Pakistani national security, one of the most crucial attributes of both political independence and territorial integrity, was violated.

Second, targeted killings are summary and extrajudicial executions that violate the right to life. It is hard to believe that the US had no other option but to kill Osama Bin Laden. According to US reports, he was killed by two gunshots to the head at close range fired from US soldiers’ guns.  Moreover, after he was killed, the United States claims they took his body. These facts indicate that the well-armed and protected US troops operating illegally on foreign soil could have made an attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden, but instead merely executed him.

When a life is taken in the course of an action that is from the onset illegal, there is a prima facie violation of the human right to life. Even American law makes killing carried out during the commission of another crime a more serious offence. Moreover, if this were not the case, then states could merely elevate a situation in which they were acting to the level of an armed conflict, so as to label their targets combatants and thus enemies who may be lawfully killed. Such action is discredited, even by the US itself who has admonished leaders in the Middle East for the use of excessive force against their people even when those leaders have claimed that they have a war on their hands.   

The US president and other US spokespersons have claimed that the troops acted to ensure there was no loss of life on their side of the operation. They seem to have no qualms, however, about killing an apparently innocent woman. They claim she was being used as a human shield, which even if true does not justify her killing. It is in fact a claim frequently made by Israeli soldiers to justify their murder of unarmed women in Palestine on a regular basis.

Similarly, attempts to justify targeted killings as acts of self-defence, or in the interest of national security, are fanciful illusions usually put forward by unapologetic and energetic proponents of US exceptionalism to international law. Leading human rights groups like Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, have roundly condemned targeted killing as a violation of the human right to life. There is no credible human rights lawyer that supports such killings.

In any event, any US claims of justification in a situation involving the taking of life requires that the US prove that it acted out of necessity or some other legal justification. Not only has the US failed to provide such proof, it has destroyed the best evidence —the body of the very victim. It did so claiming that it had to provide Osama Bin Laden a traditional Muslim burial. A burial at sea after a person is killed on land and without their family and friends present is the farthest thing one can imagine from Islamic tradition. Instead, anecdotal evidence has emerged about how Osama Bin Laden’s body was desecrated by over enthusiastic American soldiers and how Muslim traditions of respect for women were flaunted by male American soldiers who molested Muslim women in the heat of the operation. The US actions concerning Osama Bin Laden’s body look merely like the work of criminals trying to dispose of the evidence of their crime.

Ultimately, the US action, however satisfying to the American thrust for blood retribution for the terrible acts against its people in September 2001, may have set back efforts to bring peace and security to the world by ensuring human rights. It may be true that Osama Bin Laden was taunting America using the restraints of the rule of law. He was saying: “If you think you can kill or capture me within your laws, try to do so.” In the end, he and we showed it wasn’t possible. Instead, the US had to act in violation of the sovereignty of another state and had to carry out an extrajudicial and summary execution.

For most people in the world, little will have changed. The ongoing wanton disregard for international law that has characterised US foreign policy for some time will remain the greatest threat to their security. For the majority of the three billion people living in poverty around the world, the US has shown once again that the mainly Western-written rules of international law mean nothing when they are intended to protect the less powerful.

While powerful Western leaders have slaughtered millions of Iraqis and Afghanis with impunity; while Israel continues to carry out genocide against the Palestinians in full view of the world; while NATO continues to bomb the people of Libya irrespective of the UN Charter, the West is now celebrating the death of someone who, however misled and wrong-minded, was a person who was willing to fight for the poorest and the most vulnerable people in the world to the very end of his life. That the US had to kill him in violation of international law makes all the more believable Osama Bin Laden’s claims of Western hypocrisy and the need for a better alternative.

The writer is a prominent international human rights lawyer.





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19



maria
31-05-2011 10:52am
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violation of human rights by killing of osama
Thank you for your article. US have violated osama's right to get trail,international law and PAK sovernity.US been member of ICCPR have breached Article 6 extraterrotorial obligation.
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18



Abu Kamel
11-05-2011 01:56am
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The Political Game
America is the world's global imperial power and by flying into a sovereign nation and killing OBL in this way, they have delegitimized the moral and legal authority of its World Order, and relegated it to being just about American "power". Might makes Right. America chooses who lives and who dies. James, you implied I'm a terrorist because I speak the truth? Wake up. Governments have always used force against civilian populations- look at Syria today, or Libya, etc. the Western/American definition of terrorism simply does NOT describe govt violence and threat of violence on civilians as terrorism. All opposition militant action, whether its called terrorism, insurgency, revolutionary fighting, etc. is about political power, and the majority political power of the world resides almost entirely in the hands of the American world empire and its world order.
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17



Who Cares
07-05-2011 06:34pm
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Good hes dead, but not for our rights
Did OBL deserve to die? I think so. However, that doesn't change the fact that we were ignoring both international laws and our own Human Rights by doing so. Did the Nazis get trials post capture? Yes. Can one of the world's best Spec Ops teams shot OBL in a hand or leg? Yes. Did they? No. he was assassinated in violation of many, many laws. Personally, i'm glad he's dead. However, i'm concerned by the fact that just because we don't like someone, we can kill them without any of the rights guaranteed by our constitution. One of those rights is a right to a fair trial(which he would still lose) What comes next? full blown political assassinations? Nobody aside from our sometimes corrupt gov. and non-democratic dictators want that.
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16



James
06-05-2011 07:07pm
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Bye Osama
Abu, Islamic terrorists actually aim for civilians. It is their policy to murder the innocent. The US military tries to avoid civilian casualties. What is diabolic is how people like you pretend you are interested in human rights, but in fact support the bin Laden's and other terrorists. You are one of them. bob w., you are an idiot. Osama did it and said so. Get a life. Abdul, he is dead get over it. Robert, the terrorists appreciate your support. They will kill you last.
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15



Robert
05-05-2011 11:50pm
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Wonderful Article..Send to Your Friends
The targeted killing of Bin Laden is a disgrace to the US and this article says exactly why. We should forward it to all of our friends. The Rednecks who are celebrating the illegal assassination of Bin Laden should be ashamed of themselves. The SEALS killed an unarmed man in cold blood and dumped his body in the ocean....they have disgraced the US with their shameful conduct. The UN should do a full investigation and should criminally prosecute the SEALs who took part in this illegal assassination.
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14



Abdul Mujihad
05-05-2011 07:56pm
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Possible Desecration of bin Laden's corpse
On Sunday night we were told of a “big announcement” via TV, within the hour. The TV speech was delayed, purportedly so that Obama could write the speech himself. When delivered it demonstrated a lack of good governance. The event should not have been announced that night, nor perhaps until early June to enable the intel garnered from the raid to be analised and UTILISED by the CIA. The speech was given as part of the reelection campaign of Obama. Not since Nixon have we had an administration that manipulates the truth and punishes its rivals. The botched messages about the mission are intrinsically impossible to reconcile. The various accounts of what happened are classic examples of UNCONSCIONABLE INEPTITUDE. Now, not publishing the purported photos of Usuma smells of a cover-up. Reports of Usama’s capture and execution thereafter, including the mutilation of the dead body by firing unnecessary rounds into the skull of the corpse above the eyes for fun and games are surfac
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bob w
05-05-2011 07:27pm
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misguided americans
check out 911truth - Even the FBI could not declair Osama guilty of any crime due to lack of evidence. Americans now have the fewest freedoms and rights of any nation on earth thanks to the patriot act.
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12



Abu Kamel
05-05-2011 06:31pm
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Dark Age of Man's Empire
Carl Rove said on FOX's Hannity and Friends that the killing of OBL shows that America can go anywhere and "kill Islamic leaders as needed." But by the standard that James mentioned: that OBL killing 1000s of civilians, including children, both George Bush AND Barack Obama have killed many more civilians than OBL. Bush killed 100s of 1000s and caused the suffering of millions of civilians. AS WELL, Bush led the world to the biggest global financial crisis in history- the loss of $50 trillion USD- and global food shortages due to American market domination ( in 2008 and 2009). So America has directly caused financial loss, loss of food, loss of life, loss of security for 100s of millions of people. If flying into a foreign figure's home gunning him down and dumping his corpse in the ocean is the NEW WAY of doing things because of the losses they inflict on people, then who really has it coming? But this NEW WAY is the privilege of the most powerful (and most diabolic
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Salma
05-05-2011 06:25pm
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What about Bush?
Cannot agree more with your argument. I think the US should stop 'playing God', the assassination of rogue individuals is a clear violation of sovereign immunity. Yes Osama has committed crimes, but what about Bush who had literally murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children in Iraq in the most heinous fashion imaginable? what about the torture conducted at Guantanamo Bay? or now the torture is good and acceptable? Should the criminals involved be assissinated too? Or are the Americans torturing and killing people 'for their own good'?
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10



Randall Arlebe
05-05-2011 04:44pm
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Two sets of rules
Thank God that the U.S. decided not to allow Al Qaeda to play by one set of rules and depend on the U.S. playing by a different set. You can't have it both ways.
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