Independent UN human rights experts seek facts on Bin Laden killing

Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin

6 May 2011 – Two independent United Nations human rights experts today called on the United States to disclose further details of the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, particularly if there were plans to capture him alive.

The founder and head of Al-Qaida was killed early Monday morning by US forces at a compound in the town of Abbottabad, located close to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

“In respect of the recent use of deadly force against Osama bin Laden, the United States of America should disclose the supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards,” Christof Heyns, the expert dealing with extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Martin Scheinin, who deals with human rights and counter-terrorism, said in a joint statement.

“For instance it will be particularly important to know if the planning of the mission allowed an effort to capture Bin Laden,” they added.

“It may well be that the questions that are being asked about the operation could be answered, but it is important to get this into the open.”

The experts, who report in an independent and unpaid capacity to the UN Human Rights Council, noted that in certain exceptional cases, use of deadly force may be permissible as a measure of last resort in accordance with international standards on the use of force, to protect life, 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,” they stated.

“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.”

Mr. bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. He is also believed to be responsible for organizing or funding many other attacks, including the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in East Africa, the 1995 bombing of a Saudi security training centre in Riyadh and numerous attacks inside Afghanistan.


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