By MJ LEE | Politico
As more details of the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden surfaced Monday, some individuals suggested that the killing of the Al Qaeda leader by U.S. special forces may have violated international law.
However, human rights and civil liberties groups that have sharply criticized the Obama administration for its use of lethal force against terror suspects outside of war zones remained largely mum after the notorious bin Laden was shot by U.S. Navy SEALs in an operation that took place in Pakistan, where the U.S. is not involved in formally declared combat.
Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said his group wasnâ€™t prepared to express an opinion â€œuntil we know more solid details about the facts of the operation.â€
â€œThere are certainly circumstances under which lethal force is justified even in a law enforcement situation far from the battlefield,â€ Malinowski said in an email. â€œBut we’ll have to know more about what actually happened before making a judgment.â€
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has vocally opposed the Obama administrationâ€™s use of lethal force outside of armed conflict zones, told POLITICO it has not released an official comment on bin Ladenâ€™s death, and has no plans to comment on it.
Some legal scholars and intelligence analysts are also expressing concerns that the covert military operation in Abbottabad was further evidence to them that the U.S. is taking the wrong approach in the so-called â€œglobal war on terror.â€
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern went as far asÂ to say that bin Laden was â€œmartyred by U.S. forces acting arbitrarily and independently in a Muslim nation.â€
â€œThe professor turned president was out to show how tough he is and how his crackerjack extrajudicial assassins can get their man,â€ McGovern said. â€œThere are commonly accepted legal ways to capture and bring such people to a court of law â€” yes, even the â€˜bad guysâ€™ like Osama bin Laden.â€
Terrorism â€“ even that perpetrated by Osama bin Laden — is a criminal action and doesnâ€™t necessarily require military force, according to Mary Ellen Oâ€™Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. â€œIf weâ€™re not there by the authorization of the U.N. Security Council, then we should be using law enforcement methods â€“ not military force,â€ she told POLITICO.
But Oâ€™Connell added that at least for the time-being, White House counterterrorism John Brennanâ€™sÂ statement on Monday that â€œif we had the opportunity to take [bin Laden] alive, we would have done that,â€ was significant.
â€œIt was very important that he said that, as that would have been consistent with what international law and fundamental principles of the rule of law would require,â€ Oâ€™Connell said.
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