Sunday, May 8, 2011

Extrajudicial killing

Today there are 58 countries where death penalty is still legal although it is not always applied. On the other hand, some countries practise the so-called extrajudicial killing, that is, the murder of a person by governmental authorities without any previous legal proceeding or trial. This type of action is considered a human right violation from the point of view of international humanitarian law, and most democratic countries legally reject extrajudicial killing. But easier said than done: last week Osama bin Laden was killed by the US government. It is not the first case of extrajudicial killing, and sadly not the last one either, but this time there is a significant difference if compared to other extrajudicial killings so far: this murder has been wholeheartedly approved by the rest of democratic countries and by the UN.
Let’s take a look at some previous cases of extrajudicial killings to check that the other countries either condemned this action (for instance in the murder of some Antiapartheid leaders in South-Africa), or justified such killing appealing to the right of self-defence against the opponents (as in the case of the Mossad killing the members of the terrorist group Black September, alleged to have been involved in the 1972 Munich massacre on the occasion of the Olympic Games), or just remained silent.
This time, however, most US allies have officially congratulated Obama for this murder. The Spanish government issued a press release applauding this terrorist act by the US, without further legal consequences, which is quite shocking because Spain passed a law banning political parties which do not condemn terrorism strenuously. Even the UN Security Council issued a press release congratulating the US, although it was precisely the UN who drew a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings in November 1989.
These last days, we have heard arguments in favour of this killing, mostly on the bases of the massive atrocity of bin Laden’s attack to the Twin Towers. But this should never be a valid argument: criminals, as wicked as they may be, should be judged and sentenced, but never murdered. If all governments start revenging their offences with terrorist actions beyond their legal system, what moral authority is left to later condemn a citizen who kills someone who had murdered his/her family? Our history of civilization is a history of justice against the Talion Law, against revenge.


  1. Countries retaining the death penalty according to Amnesty International:
  2. International Humanitarian Law:
  3. List of well-known extrajudicial killing cases:
  4. Apartheid in South-Africa:
  5. Extrajudicial killings of Operation Wrath of God directed by the Mossad:
  6. Official congratulation to the US by the Spanish government on the occasion of Osama bin Laden’s killing:
  7. Political Parties Law in Spain:
  8. UN Security Council congratulates the US:
  9. UN resolution 44/162 of 15 November 1989 about human rights in the justice administration:


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.