Moral Outrage
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The legality of killing Osama bin Laden

The Guardian reports that the chorus of official applause from international leaders over the death of Osama bin Laden has failed to silence doubts about the killing’s legality. Despite widespread backing for the raid, there is a growing demand for the precise legal basis of the US operation to be explained.

Prof Nick Grief, an international lawyer at Kent University, said the attack had the appearance of an “extrajudicial killing without due process of the law”. He added: “It may not have been possible to take him alive … but no one should be outside the protection of the law.” Even after the end of the Second World War, Nazi war criminals had been given a “fair trial”.

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC also argued that the killing risked undermining the rule of law. “The Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists), to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict,” he wrote in the Independent. “This would have been the best way of demystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers.”

US officials have now conceded that Bin Laden was not armed during the assault, did not fire back and that his wife was only injured in the assault, most likely in the crossfire, according to unnamed officials quoted by the US website Politico.

And contrary to initial US reports, The Telegraph reveals that Osama bin Laden did not use one of his four wives as a human shield in his dying moments, as White House officials began to “clarify” earlier accounts of Monday’s commando raids by US special forces.

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8 Responses to “The legality of killing Osama bin Laden”

  1. People who speak on Human Rights for Killers and Terrorists conveniently forget the victims do/did have Human Rights.

    These type of people who talk about Human Rights definitely know what they say is Morally Wrong.

    Yet they make noises.

    What is Morally Wrong can never be legally Right.

  2. Haaretz (Israel) offers this commentary:

    “Murder in cold blood (especially in a foreign country ) contradicts the principles of international law, but thanks to military, economic and political power – and not for reasons of principle – there is no chance that Obama will have to pay for it.

    “The murder of bin Laden now enables many governments the world over, including the Israeli government, to continue to slaughter civilians and to explain the act by referring to the Obama precedent.

    “Washington no longer has the moral authority to preach to other countries about arbitrary acts of murder for the sake of political or economic interests.”

  3. I hate Osama bin Laden for what he confessed to instigate around the world, and I deeply wish he were incarcerated at The Hague, waiting to stand trial.

  4. You speak of the innocent being killed overseas in countries such as Israel. But please tell me, was Osama bin Laden an innocent? Anyone who thinks that he was is in serious denial. I feel disagreement with this is unpatriotic. That poor excuse for a human being was responsible for the deaths of too many people to count. It is inexcusable and the American government did exactly what was neccessary and nothing more.

    • Not sure what you are referring to when you write “You speak of the innocent being killed overseas in countries such as Israel. …”

      On the other point though, I am in no way attempting to make the case that Osama bin Laden was an innocent.

      The point of the Guardian article and post is simply to point out the way in which bin Laden was taken out had the appearance of an “extrajudicial killing without due process of the law”.

  5. […] increasingly clear that the [Osama bin Laden] operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have […]

  6. […] a series of episodes, including the shooting of two Pakistanis in Lahore by a CIA contractor, the Navy SEALs raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden and the deadly airstrike in […]


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