“We will hunt you down and kill you wherever you are”, President Obama authorises international death squads

[Kim Treadweather, Political Contributor]

BBC:  President Obama, in his defence of  his assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan recently, has sent a clear message to those who cause trouble for the USA, their associates and those perceived to be connected with them: “Wherever you are, we will hunt you down and kill you”. 

The president’s message effectively legalises the USA’s right to perpetrate extra-judicial killings on foreign soil. In particular, having declared that ‘justice has been done’, upon hearing the news of  Bin Laden’s assassination by Navy SEALS in Pakistan, the president had commented that the execution had been: “Within the bounds of our customs and traditions”.

Although, the death of the man who had been widely held to have been the architect of the the 11 September 2001 attacks on the USA which killed around 3000 people, was welcome news for most worldwide, questions are starting to emerge about the legality of the assassination.

BBC World Service said that according to Benjamin Ferencz, an ex Nuremburg trials prosecutor: “The issue here is whether what was done was an act of legitimate self-defence.. it would have been better to capture Bin Laden and send him to a court….killing a captive who poses no immediate threat is a crime under military law as well as all other law….”.  Adding to this, British law professor, Phillipe Sands QC told the BBC:  “As a matter of international law, one country is not free to enter another country apparently without the authorisation of that country, and intervene, whether to kidnap or kill a national of a third state”.

This concern has also been tabled by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns as well as the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin. They said:-

“In certain exceptional cases, use of deadly force may be permissible as a measure of last resort… including in operations against terrorists …however, the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment …actions taken by states in combating terrorism, especially in high profile cases, set precedents for the way in which the right to life will be treated in future instances”.

Following from this, international law analysts are saying that if the USA situation is recognised as legal, there is nothing to stop other countries, with total impunity, as in the case of Bin Laden’s assassination by the USA, authorising their own death squads to hunt down and kill in foreign countries those they perceive to be their enemies, or who have committed acts of terror, or those who are perceived to be assisting them.

That, they say will create a world whereby the rights of  all for criminal justice before a court, will disappear entirely and encourage regimes to summarily dispose of anyone perceived to be a threat to them, or their interests.

In that regard, it is important, they are saying, that the USA is made to account before an international tribunal for its assassination of Bin Laden, who by all accounts was unarmed man and had offered no resistance to the SEALS who had killed him and who had subsequently disposed of his body without the order of any court, effectively preventing a post-mortem examination as to the circumstances of his death.

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