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The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Was it Lawful?
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Sweden.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The main purpose of this work is to investigate if the US ́s killing of Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011 in Abbottabad in Pakistan was lawful. The background to the killing is what happened on 11 September 2001 when four US airplanes were hijacked and crashed into World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Al Qaeda, a terrorist organisation led by Osama bin Laden, was immediately suspected for the attacks, which led to the starting point of the US ́s ‘global war on terror’. This work tries to give a short brief on ‘global war on terror’ and answer if there is a global war on terror and/or if a new category of war is needed.

In order to get an answer to the main question of this work I had to investigate if US is in an international armed conflict or in a non-international armed conflict with Al Qaida. Another important question to investigate is if an armed conflict in one State can spill over to another State and still be consider as an armed conflict.

Other important questions to answer are, if Osama bin Laden was a legitimate target under international humanitarian law, if he was a civilian or if he had a continuous combat function and what level of participation in hostilities he had?

Not less important is also to investigate if human rights law is applicable when Osama bin Laden was killed, especially the fundamental right to life.

Lastly I end my investigation with a quick review of the laws of jus ad bellum in order to get an answer if US had a right to resort to force in Pakistan.

My conclusion is that the US was not involved in an armed conflict with al Qaeda in Pakistan where the killing took place. The conflict between the US and al Qaeda in Afghanistan is to be categorised as a non-international conflict. This conflict cannot be described as a conflict that has spilled over to Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed. All people, including Osama bin Laden, has a right to life. Because of lack of information on what happened in Abbottabad when Osama bin Laden was killed it is impossible to give a clear legal answer if the US had the right to kill him. It could be lawful, but it could also be considered as a crime against international human rights law. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 70 p.
Keyword [en]
Target, ICCPR, Use of force, self-defence, anticipatory self-defence, unwilling, unable, Human Right to Life, Arbitrary Deprivation of Life, Jus ad bellum, jus in bello, Distinction, Global War on Terror, GWOT, Extraterritorial Applicability, Direct Participation in Hostilities, Geographical Scope, Armed Conflict, Temporal Scope, Continuous Combat Function, IHL, IHRL, HR, International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, International Armed Conflict, Non-International Armed Conflict
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-21892ISRN: ORU-JPS/RÄT-AY-2012/0054--SEOAI: diva2:506500
Subject / course
Rättsvetenskap (juristprogrammet)
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
Available from: 2012-05-10 Created: 2012-02-28 Last updated: 2012-05-10Bibliographically approved

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