Tuesday, October 25, 2011

VAU Afgh 101: Extrajudicial Executions

This is part of a series of eight "virtual teachins" on U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

[UPDATE: As reported in the Chicago Tribune in its June 19, 2012 article entitled U.N. investigator decries U.S. use of killer drones, Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has said, "The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings ... (and) reiterates his predecessor's recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture 'human targets' and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent."]

The crime of Extrajudicial Executions is described on the website for Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes. Here, we will look at the specific legal basis for charging perpetrators as war criminals for Extrajudicial Executions, and list sources reporting relevant U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

Viewers of this page are strongly encouraged to contribute comments and additional sources in the comments section!





If the American public knew the nature of the crimes that its government was committing in Afghanistan, could it possibly sit still and not force an end to the war, and the removal of U.S. military, intelligence, and contractors from Afghanistan?

LEGAL BASIS
The crime of Extrajudicial Executions is described on the website for Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.

Why does the law prohibit extrajudicial execution? In my view, the ultimate reason is that extrajudicial execution always undermines confidence in the functioning of all law. Thus, it is even simpler and less controversial than moral arguments. Consider:

EVEN IF a person is objectively "guilty" of some crime, i.e. no organized finding of fact is necessary (a condition which, if you think about it, is in fact virtually impossible to meet -- do we really know the facts before we establish the facts?); and . . .

EVEN IF the death penalty is accepted as an appropriate penalty for a crime of which the person is known objectively to be guilty (a condition which is rapidly becoming inoperable); in other words . . .

EVEN IF the machinery of state power is operating from a basis of truth and legitimate authority, still . . .

THE PROBLEM REMAINS that extrajudicial execution lacks due process, and thus has little if any chance of being seen as legitimate in the eyes of the public (where "the public" inevitably consists of any and all people who lack some kind of magical safeguards against being victims of state power).

All war crimes have the effect of de-legitimizing the entire basis of the State; extrajudicial execution de-legitimizes the State with extreme speed and thoroughness.

REPORTS FROM AFGHANISTAN
Two well-publicized examples of extrajudicial executions in the past year have been the assassination of Osama bin Laden by a commando team in May, and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by drone attack at the end of September. There have been countless others, including a very large number carried out by drones.

The Noam Chomsky evaluation of the bin Laden assassination is a very good assessment of the problem of extrajudicial execution.

Michael Ratner discussed the Awlaki assassination in The Guardian: "The law on the use of lethal force by executive order is specific. This assassination broke it – that creates a terrifying precedent." A report in the NY Times established that the Obama White House developed a justification for the Awlaki assassination a year prior to the event in a secret memo. This means that all people were subject to lethal force by the United States government on a basis that the United States government intended to claim as legitimate and lawful, but which was unknown and unknowable by anyone.

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Return to the main VAU Afghanistan 101 page.

Photo credit: Al Hayat wa Dounia newspaper

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Related posts


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(See VAU Afghanistan 101: US War Crimes )













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