The US military carried out Operation Geronimo on the night of May 1-2, 2011 in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. As a result of the actions of the special forces, the head of Al-Qaeda was killed. The operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden was scheduled for Sunday, May 1. As the US President’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan later stated, bin Laden would have been arrested if such an opportunity had presented itself. However, there was no task to take him alive. The operation involved 12 fighters of an elite unit of the US Navy, known as Navy seals. As soon as the fighters entered the territory of the mansion, they sent the command an encrypted signal Geronimo, which meant that the target was in the building. After another 40 minutes, the signal “Geronimo E-KIA” was received, where “E” meant “enemy” and “KIA” – “killed in action.”
A photo has been published on the official website of the White House, in which the top officials of the United States are intently peering somewhere. According to the explanatory inscription, they look at the screens where the image is displayed from miniature cameras attached to the helmets of the participants of the operation. The operation was watched almost live by President Barack Obama, who, in my opinion, had the legal authority to execute Operation Geronimo.
The moratorium imposed by the decision of the Court assumes the absence of such a punishment as the death penalty. The possibility of imposing death sentences was declared unconstitutional. However, at the same time, the law “On Countering Terrorism” enshrines the right to kill any person who commits a terrorist act (Rao, 2020). Terrorism has a negative impact not only on the State as a whole but also on human rights, on his life and health. It strikes at the values that underlie the Charter of the United Nations and other international treaties. Respect for human rights, the rule of law and the rules of war protecting civilians are violated.
There are many international legal acts in the field of human rights. For example, the act of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, “On the Protection of victims of terrorist acts” and “Resolution on Combating Terrorism” are in force (Rao, 2020). It clearly follows from them that States have the right and obligation to protect persons under their jurisdiction from terrorist acts. To provide the protection of human life and security, the State can and should take effective anti-terrorist measures. Thus, from the point of view of international law, President Obama had the legal authority to execute Operation Geronimo.
The murder of a terrorist is not a crime since it is regarded as harming interests protected by criminal law in a state of extreme necessity. It was committed to eliminating the danger that directly threatens the rights of persons, and the legally protected interests of society, or the State. During the operation, this danger could not be eliminated by other means and at the same time, the limits of extreme necessity were not exceeded. The proportionality of defense to attack (firearms against bombs) was taken into account.
This execution falls under the expanded concept of self-defense. The law “Necessary Defense” states that it is not a crime to harm an attacker in order to protect the individual and the rights of the interests of society and the state (Bevan, 2021). Moreover, according to the law “Causing harm during the detention of a criminal,” it is possible to harm criminals with impunity even after they have brought their intent to an end (Bevan, 2021). The right to self-defense does not depend on gender, race, nationality, religion and social status; it is universal.
The necessity of defense is, first of all, protection; at the same time, the such defense can be considered protection not only of the person and the rights of the defender himself. The law also covers the protection of the person and the rights of other persons, as well as the interests of society or the state from encroachment. It would also be necessary to note the fact that the concept of “necessary defense” is valid if there is a real threat of violence on the part of the attacker (Bevan, 2021). Thus, from the point of view of criminal law, President Obama had the legal authority to execute Operation Geronimo.
The death penalty as a criminal punishment, in this case, acts as a legal restriction, a legal means to deter criminals. This follows from its nature and is an objective property, despite any subjective assessments and public opinions (Ostler & Jacoby, 2021). The use of the death penalty for terrorism does not contradict democratic values. Many scholars consider the United States the most democratic country in the world (Ostler & Jacoby, 2021). New York, the largest state in the country, has introduced a law on the death penalty for terrorism.
Speaking about the regulation of the anti-terrorism fight, it can be stated that the actions of the President were justified. The analysis of the norm on terrorism leads to the conclusion that by committing terrorist acts, a person foresees the inevitability of the death of many citizens and desires this (direct intent). Even if the death of people does not occur due to circumstances beyond the control of this person, the death penalty may be applied to the person (Ostler & Jacoby, 2021). Thus, from the point of view of the legal regulation of the fight against terrorism, President Obama had the legal authority to execute Operation Geronimo.
President Obama’s actions during Operation Geronimo, including execution, can be regarded as countering terrorism. Execution, in this case, is a form of countering illegal, violent actions. As a member of the State power, the President eliminated the cause and conditions conducive to the commission of terrorist acts. He gave the order to execute in order to protect society and the state from terrorist threats and manifestations. The organization of the fight against terrorism demanded from the President a comprehensive approach to the analysis of legal law sources regarding terrorist activities.
Having determined priorities in solving the task in a timely manner, Obama did not violate international legal norms. Its actions are the successful implementation of regulatory legal acts that contribute to the implementation of the regulatory strategy of national and international security. In order to effectively counter international terrorism, the execution was necessary. The President has strengthened his positions in preventive activities aimed at eliminating potential prerequisites for the formation of terrorist tendencies. Thus, from the point of view of international, criminal and anti-terrorism law, President Obama had the legal authority to execute Operation Geronimo.
Bevan, A. K. (2021). The fundamental inadequacy of tribe-agency consultation on major federal infrastructure projects. Journal of Law and Public Affairs, 6(3), 561-601.
Ostler, J., & Jacoby, K. (2021). After 1776: Native nations, settler colonialism, and the meaning of America. Journal of Genocide Research, 8(11), 1-22.
Rao, M. S. (2020). Action steps to overcome the organizational crisis. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 14(1), 1-8.