Amidst growing questions over the legality of the killing of Osama bin Laden, US Attorney General Eric Holder defended the commando raid that resulted in the death of the former al-Qaeda terror chief.
“What happened to bin Laden was not an assassination,” Holder told BBC.
I think the action that we took against him can be seen as an act of national self-defense. You have to remember it is lawful to target an enemy commander.”
The Special Forces acted in an appropriate way, he declared.
If the possibility had existed, if there was the possibility of a feasible surrender, that would have occurred, Holder said.
But their protection, that is the protection of the force that went into that compound, was I think uppermost in our minds.
Holder added: “This [bin Laden] is a man who swore he would never be taken alive. There were some indications that perhaps he wore a suicide vest, there’s indications that perhaps there were weapons in the room.”
Holder also stated that the commando operation adhered to international laws on the targeting of enemy commanders.
I actually think that the dotting of the I's and the crossing of the T's is what separates the United States, the United Kingdom, our allies, from those who we are fighting, he said.
We do respect the rule of law, there are appropriate ways in which we conduct ourselves and expect our people to conduct themselves, and I think those Navy Seals conducted themselves in a way that's consistent with American, [and] British values.
Meanwhile, criticism of the US raid continues, particularly in Pakistan.
On Thursday, several hundred supporters of opposition politician, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, demonstrated in Abbottabad itself.
They chanted such slogans as Go, America Go, Down with Obama and Down with Zardari, in reference to the US President and his Pakistani counterpart.
Sharif, who is the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, has demanded a full inquiry into the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
Two of bin Laden’s sons have also denounced the raid, questioning why their father was not taken alive. They told the New York Times in a statement: “[why was he] not arrested and tried in a court of law so that the truth is revealed to the people of the world?”
The United Nations has also raised some objections to the killing of bin Laden.
The U.N. “special rapporteurs” (watchdogs on human rights) Christof Heyns and Martin Scheinin said in a statement that deadly force is permissible only in exceptional cases as a last resort.
However, the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment, they added.
Heyns and Scheinin want the Obama Administration to reveal everything about the raid on bin Laden.
Scheinin told Reuters: “the U.S. government should answer questions concerning whether a meaningful prospect of surrender and arrest was given by the U.S., but perhaps not taken by Osama bin Laden… You design an operation so that there is a meaningful possibility of surrender and arrest even if you think the offer will be refused and you have to resort to lethal force.”
Some academics have also weighed in on the controversy.
Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote on the website Guernica. “It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition. We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him and dumped his body in the Atlantic.”