B S Raghavan

Does ‘bring to justice' mean outright killing?

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on May 12, 2011 Published on May 08, 2011

The entire world shared with deep agony the trauma undergone by the US on the fateful day of September 9, 2001, when, in broad light, terrorist squads brought down the prestigious twin towers in New York, almost reduced to rubble the most securely protected Pentagon itself in Washington, and were close to using a fourth wide-bodied plane hijacked over Pennsylvania as yet another devastating missile to crash into, God knows, what other landmark building in the nation's capital or elsewhere. More than 3,000 perished in these monstrous outrages.

Scathing condemnation of these bestial onslaughts found expression in resolutions No.1368 of September 12, 2001 and No.1373 September 28, 2001.

Through them, all Member-States pledged to work together urgently to bring to justice not only the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks but also those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring them.

Combating terrorism

They were at one in being determined to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with their responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations. These decisions were declared to flow directly from the inherent right of self-defence that every individual or country was entitled to exercise.

There were also subsequent dastardly attacks in Spain, Britain, India and elsewhere, as also failed attempts in the US itself, which showed that the murderous fanatics were bent on perpetrating similar horrors which were tantamount to a declaration of war on civilised governments and humanity.

Troubling

There was no doubt that Osama bin Laden, the moving spirit behind the al-Qaeda, and its brand of barbaric killers, was the unrepentant planner, instigator, mastermind and the overall leader of this evil empire. Hardly anyone would have had any self-doubts, on the emotional plane, about the imperative need to capture him alive, if possible, and dead, if necessary, to make the world a safer place to live in.

The issue becomes troubling when a justifiable emotional upsurge is sought to be legitimised as a settled policy of what has come to be known as ‘targeted killing' or, plain and simple elimination on sight, of what the world perceives to be a mass murderer. It becomes all the more so when it is sought to be enforced unilaterally by a power like the US, solely on its conclusion who deserves such terminal treatment, by the adoption of whatever means, including the violation of the sanctity of the territorial integrity and sovereign rights of other nations, at whatever time it chooses to do so.

In the case of Osama, reportedly, a US national security official confirmed to Reuters that 'it was a kill operation' and there was no option given to capture him alive. Authoritative sources in the US have also said that Osama was unarmed but defended his killing on the ground of his resistance and lunging for a weapon.

It may be possible for the world to wink at such a unilateral action in the case of Osama and by a set of decision-makers who could be expected to be rational in their conclusion. But what if they at some point in time turn out to be vicious and wicked, or irrational and impulsive, and begin exterminating persons purely because of their dislike of them? (Who could forget Salvadore Allende of Chile and Patrick Lumumba of Congo, and the poisoned overcoat and pens gifted to Fidel Castro?)

What if this encourages other nations to follow suit? Will not unilateralism end up in the breakdown of the international law?

The US Administration has let it be known that it has no regrets about what it did at Abbottabad, and will do it again, as long as what it considers to be threat to its security is not wiped out. Will it approve of a similar unilateral adventure by other nations to deal with threats to their security as they perceive them?

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Published on May 08, 2011
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