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Thursday
May192011

White House Offers Legal Justification for Osama Bin Laden Killing

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time since the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration has put forth its official legal justification for the lawfulness of the operation.

"Given bin Laden's unquestioned leadership position within al Qaeda and his clear continuing operational role there can be no question that he was the leader of an enemy force and a legitimate target in our armed conflict with al Qaeda," said Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal advisor, in a blog posted Thursday.

Koh called the killing justified under U.S. and international law out of self defense, and the fact that the U.S. needs to protect itself against further attacks.

Legal scholars and human rights activists had urged the Obama administration to reiterate its legal justification for the operation and address concerns that the action may have violated international rules of law.

Koh says that the al Qaeda leader was a lawful target under the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) authorized by Congress in the days after September 11th. The AUMF authorizes the president to use military force against those that have "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks."

He says that the manner in which the operation was conducted followed international law by "taking great pains both to distinguish between legitimate military objectives and civilians" while avoiding excessive injury to the latter.

Some have questioned whether the SEALS allowed bin Laden time to surrender. Koh says that the forces were prepared to capture bin Laden if he had "surrendered in a way that they could safely accept" in accordance with the laws of armed conflict which require the acceptance of a "genuine offer" of surrender, "clearly communicated by the surrendering party" under circumstances where it would be feasible for the forces to accept the offer of surrender.

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