The legality of US forces shooting an unarmed Osama bin Laden hinges on a highly contentious and long-debated question. IS anti terrorism part of a military campaign or a law-enforcement effort?
The head of the CIA has revealed that there was no live footage of the main part of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, contradicting earlier reports that the US president was watching the action.
According to Press TV, CIA Director Leon Panetta stated on Thursday that there was a 25-minute video blackout during the raid on the fortified compound owned by the al-Qaeda chief and that the US President Barack Obama and his national security aides had little knowledge of what was happening during the 38 minutes of the US special forces' operation on Pakistani soil.
This is while a photograph of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, along with defense staff and national security aides in the Situation Room was released by the White House, appearing to show them anxiously watching as the mission unfolded.
The director of the CIA said in an interview with PBS: "Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information."
He went on to say that it was the US Navy Seals themselves who made the final decision to shoot bin Laden, rather than the US president.
International experts said in war, enemy combatants who don’t explicitly surrender are considered legitimate targets. Bin Laden’s killing in a military context would be legal under the scenario officially put out by the White House Wednesday — that bin Laden was unarmed but tried to resist being taken in.
In contrast, international human rights law dictates that police must use the greatest possible effort to capture suspects alive, barring direct threats to the lives of officers or civilians.
Andrea Prasow, senior counsel in Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program said “There is a higher obligation not to use lethal force.”
Prasow said “We don’t have enough facts to know whether the killing was justified under international law,” adding “We look forward to the U.S. government disclosing further information so we can understand exactly what happened. It may well have been a lawful killing in an armed conflict situation or it may have been a lawful killing in a law enforcement context.”
International experts said there was widespread disagreement about whether al-Qaida members such as bin Laden are legitimate military targets.