Geronimo or the Neptune Spear is an operation authorized by Barack Obama and carried out on May 2, 2011, by a particular unit of DEVGRU to assassinate the al-Qaeda terrorist organization Osama bin Laden. After that, Barack Obama delivered a speech that caused an international outcry. Most favored the results of Operation Neptune’s Spear, but some condemned it. On May 6, Al-Qaeda confirmed the death of bin Laden. It is necessary to refer to the U.S. and international law to assess the actions of the operation and the implementation of the plan by the then-president.
Without the relevant resolutions and other international and domestic law aspects, this operation could be considered a crime. However, the U.S. Congress after the September 11, 2001 attacks passed a resolution, “Authorization to Use Military Force Against Terrorists,” authorizing the U.S. President to use “necessary and appropriate force against those states, organizations or individuals” that took part in the attacks (Searcey, 2011). It was this resolution that the Obama administration referred to when justifying the use of force.
On the other hand, the complicating fact was that in 1998 bin Laden was indicted by the U.S. Manhattan District Court. According to the law, a person in charge must be detained and brought to court. However, many governments and the media questioned whether the order was to kill or take alive (Pfarrer, 2011). Legally, no one has made any claims against Obama within the country. Moreover, the news was received positively among the population, except for some districts and communities.
The most acute reaction was made in Pakistan, where this operation took place. Pakistan’s counterterrorism partnership was questioned when bin Laden was discovered in their city (Soherwordi & Khattak, 2020). The first reaction was to accuse the United States of unauthorized actions and violations of the country’s sovereignty. However, the answer was not long in coming. International law on armed conflict and the UN Charter allows a foreign government to conduct a military operation on the territory of another country if that country itself is not capable and ready to deal with the problem (Searcey, 2011). However, opinions around the world are polarized.
Most agreed that the murder during the operation was an act of self-defense. The U.S. called for more facts to be revealed about the case, and the investigation to assess the legality of the procedure in the framework of international humanitarian law. However, it was believed that the operation was an extrajudicial execution without due process of law (Bowcott, 2011). The question is raised of the dilemma of the secrecy of the assignment and of informing organizations interested in the fight against terrorism. Obama is being challenged with an uncoordinated, secret, and short-lived solution, a kind of intervention in Pakistan. However, this operation was dictated by necessity from the point of view of international security.
Barack Obama’s responsibility for putting into action the plan for Operation Neptune’s Spear was justified domestically and met with disagreement only within the framework of international law. The accusations were mainly made verbally and were aimed at a request for more detailed coverage of the investigation and the path leading to such a decision. On the other hand, the secrecy of the preparation of the operation allowed the United States to carry it out with success and without losses. Most of the claims rested on the recognition of an act of self-defense. Although many organizations, most often aimed at protecting human rights, did not approve of the unauthorized operation, comparing it to execution, Barack Obama and the U.S. government did not receive a proper legal and documented charge.
Bowcott O. (2011) Osama bin Laden: the US responds to questions about killing’s legality. The Guardian.
Pfarrer, C. (2011). SEAL Target Geronimo: The inside story of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. St. Martin’s Press.
Searcey, D. (2011) Killing Was Legal Under U.S. and International Law, Many Experts Say. The Wall Street Journal.
Soherwordi, S. H. S., & Khattak, S. A. (2020). Operation Geronimo: Assassination of Osama Bin Ladin and its implications on the US-Pakistan relations, War on Terror, Pakistan and Al-Qaeda. South Asian Studies, 26(2).