Bin Laden, Counter-Terrorism and Strains of International Law
May 7, 2011
By Aaron Eitan Meyer
Aside from Taliban extremists, Al Qaeda fundamentalists in Yemen and some unbalanced individuals elsewhere, it is pretty difficult to find anyone who empathized with Osama Bin Laden or considered his death to be the world’s loss. And yet shortly after President Obama announced that a Navy SEAL team had killed Bin Laden, Reuters reported that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has already publicly called upon the US “to give the U.N. details about Osama bin Laden’s killing and said that all counter-terrorism operations must respect international law.” Der Spiegel ran an article under the headline “Was Bin Laden’s Killing Legal?” Somehow a counter-terrorist operation that resulted in what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon termed a “watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism” is already being turned against the United States in the guise of legal rhetoric.
How has this manipulation of international law managed to become increasingly prevalent? As law professor David Bernstein pointed out at The Volokh Conspiracy, the Der Spiegel article is indicative of a ‘cult of international law,’ in which “cultists are inclined to take the most restrictive, often extremely tendentious view of international law, in which international law becomes a substitute for otherwise passe leftist pacifism or anti-Americanism.” And unsurprisingly, the United Nations is playing a role that has gone largely under the radar.