Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden: US Responds to Questions about Killing's Legality

Editor's NOTE:

Regular readers know that I have expressed great skepticism about the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden by the US special forces on May 1, 2011. The default position based upon all the available data is that bin Laden died in late 2001 as a result of end-stage kidney failure.  Thus it would be impossible for him to have been killed several days ago.

If bin Laden managed to remain alive against all odds until being killed by Navy Seals in his alleged compound 3 days ago, the situation as outlined in the piece below is very troubling. First, no solid evidence has ever been produced that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 911 attacks and there is a great deal of evidence that indicates to a high degree of probability that he was not.

Recall that former Secretary of State Colin Powell never produced the promised "white paper" which was supposed to prove bin Laden's guilt. Moreover, the FBI never listed the 911 attacks on bin Laden's "rap sheet." When asked why, the FBI indicated it lacked the requisite evidence.

Therefore, in the absence of actual evidence that bin Laden was guilty of perpetrating the 911 attacks, the US has committed an unjustified summary execution if in fact bin Laden was still alive on May 1, 2011.

Osama bin Laden: US Responds to Questions about Killing's Legality

Doubts remain over manner in which al-Qaida figurehead died but US officials defend Barack Obama's action

By Owen Bowcott

May 03, 2011 "The Guardian" - -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, particularly given the absence of prior debate in the UN security council.

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".
Cautioning that not all the circumstances were known, 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".

The prominent defence lawyer Michael Mansfield QC expressed similar doubts about whether sufficient efforts had been made to capture Bin Laden. "The serious risk is that in the absence of an authoritative narrative of events played out in Abbottabad, vengeance will become synonymised with justice, and that revenge will supplant 'due process'.

"Assuming the mission was … intended to detain and not to assassinate, it is therefore imperative that a properly documented and verifiable narrative of exactly what happened is made public. Whatever feelings of elation and relief may dominate the airwaves," he said, "they must not be allowed to submerge core questions about the legality of the exercise, nor to permit vengeance or summary execution to become substitutes for justice."

The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC 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."

The immediate justification for the killing was that the head of al-Qaida had long ago declared war on the US and other nations. "In war you are allowed to attack your enemy," a US embassy spokesman in London said.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, echoed Barack Obama's assertion, stating: "Osama bin Laden is dead and justice has been done."

A more thorough explanation of the legal basis was given last year by Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser at the US state department. He told a meeting of the American Society of International Law: "Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.

"The principles of distinction and proportionality that the US applies are …implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law."

He added: "Some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the longstanding domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems - consistent with the applicable laws of war - for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defence or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute 'assassination'."

John Bellinger III, who served as the state department's senior lawyer during George Bush's second term as president, also insisted the strike was legitimate.
"The killing is not prohibited by the long-standing assassination prohibition in executive order 12333 [signed in 1981] because the action was a military action in the ongoing US armed conflict with al-Qaida and it is not prohibited to kill specific leaders of an opposing force," he wrote.

"The assassination prohibition also does not apply to killings in self-defence. The executive branch will also argue that the action was permissible under international law both as a permissible use of force in the US armed conflict with al-Qaida and as a legitimate action in self-defence, given that Bin Laden was clearly planning additional attacks."

Many human rights groups have reacted with caution. "Osama bin Laden took credit for and supported acts around the world which amounted to crimes against humanity," said Claudio Cordone, senior director at Amnesty International.

"He also inspired others to commit grave human rights abuses. His death will put an end to his role in organising or inspiring such criminal acts. We do not know the full circumstances of his killing and the others with him and we are looking into that." Amnesty is writing to the US and Pakistani governments for "greater clarification about the events that led to the death of Osama bin Laden".

One area of anxiety is the suggestion that the intelligence needed to locate Bin Laden's refuge might have been obtained through torture of suspects detained at Guant√°namo Bay or other secret holding centres.

Whether or not the Pakistan government authorised the assault on its territory might technically affect the legality of the operation under international law. But the enthusiastic support of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, for the killing is likely to silence any critical voices in the security council.

"The death of Osama bin Laden … is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism," Ban said. "Personally, I am very much relieved by the news that justice has been done."


Dan said...

It is really fascinating to me to watch so many otherwise sensible people cheering over this political assassination. I wonder if they realize that they are cheering on something that just might one day come back to haunt them?

Do these people even think these things through, or are they too caught up in their lusting for revenge that they can't see that a terrible precdent has been set, one that almost certainly they will one day have cause to regret.

A killing without trial, without evidence, without anything committed by a country with more than a little blood on its own hands. And if the cheering patriots cannot see that in this oncoming fascism we are facing in the USA they may themselves one day be targets, then they are simply stupid.

I am reminded of that brilliant scene in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, where St Thomas More talks about giving even the Devil the benefit of the law. The people whose sense of revenge is at white heat right now should watch that film again.

Dr. J. P. Hubert said...

Well said Dan. Too bad the FCM is completely captured by the Regime. Most people have no idea that we have been presented with no evidence that OBL is responsible for the 911 attacks. It has become a kind of urban myth.