Was it Legal to Kill Osama Bin Laden?


While much of the world celebrates the death of Osama Bin Laden, one question has emerged: Was it legal for Navy Seals, acting on orders from the President of the United States, to walk into Bin Laden's house and shoot him in the left eye? Most legal analysts say yes.

As the leader of a group in an ongoing war with the U.S., Bin Laden was a legitimate military target who could be captured or killed at any time under the laws of war, the analysts say, according to a report from the Christian Science Monitor.

“We could have killed him even if he was trying to run away. He was a lawful target,” said Scott Silliman, a law professor and executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke University.

“When all the layers are peeled away from a tactical perspective, the government did everything by the book,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Of course, these are two American perspectives. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff says the United States failed to recognize Pakistan's sovereignty when it crossed into his country's borders and carried out the operation.

So who is right? 

If you go back to the beginning, Bin Laden personally declared war on the U.S. in 1996, issuing a religious decree calling for the murder American citizens everywhere.

In 2001 Congress passed a law written with Bin Laden in mind that empowers the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against nations, organizations, or individuals who played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

Supporters of terrorism are calling Bin Laden's death an “execution,” although these handful of extremist voices are drowned out by peace-loving people all over the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “The death of Osama bin Laden... is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism. Personally, I am very much relieved by the news that justice has been done.”

The European Commission and European Council said in a statement:

Osama bin Laden was a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. His death makes the world a safer place and shows that such crimes do not remain unpunished. This is a major achievement in our efforts to rid the world of terrorism.


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