Tyrannical States

BERLIN/WASHINGTON |

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Following celebrations of Osama bin Laden's targeted assassination, jurists are harshly criticizing extra-judicial executions carried out by the western military. According to Professor Kai Ambos, a specialist in international law, extra-judicial executions, even those of terrorists, are characteristic for tyrannical regimes. In his recent statement, Ambos writes that extra-judicial executions also entail grave consequences for domestic conditions of the countries carrying out these executions. This criticism pertains to the German government because of not only the chancellor and foreign minister's explicit approval of bin Laden's liquidation, but also because, as the German defense ministry confirmed already last year, German government ministries sanction, in certain cases, targeted assassinations without due process of law. Berlin also uncritically accepts the extra-judicial execution of German citizens in Pakistan. After all, German soldiers are involved in targeted killings, through their support of US death squads. Since some time, government advisers have cautioned that participating in the so-called war on terror, Germany is functioning "at the borderline of rule of law." This could be diplomatic circumlocution for a lawless situation.

Fair Game

In his recent statement, Kai Ambos, who is a judge and a professor of law at the University of Gottingen, recently declared that the targeted assassination of Osama bin Laden was unjustifiable. Even terrorists have the right to due process of law. If they are found guilty, they could possibly even "be given the death sentence" in the USA. But "killing outside of the due process of law" is nothing less than "an extra-judicial execution" of which "human rights bodies, accuse tyrannical states of practicing," Ambos confirms.[1] The West has to weigh, whether it wants "to deny all human rights including the right to life, to its terrorist enemies and declare them fair game for the military." This, according to Ambos, is not even worth discussing. If the West denies fundamental rights to its enemies, it would practically be "on the same level as they," with unpredictable consequences for the domestic situation of the western world.

"Successful Action"

Kai Ambos' criticism applies to several aspects of German government policy: first, because the chancellor and foreign minister unanimously applauded the targeted assassination of Osama bin Laden. Angela Merkel announced that she had transmitted to US President Barack Obama "my, and our, respect for this success and for this successful commando action." The information about the execution is "simply good news."[2] When asked, Merkel expressed "happiness." Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle explained that the report on bin Laden's assassination is "good news for all peace and freedom loving people in the world."[3] Misgivings, such as those expressed and explained by Mr. Ambos, are unknown from the side of the German government.

Evolved Further

Since 2010, at the latest, the German government has been arguing from the legal standpoint that, under certain circumstances, targeted assassinations are permissible. Only a few years earlier, government legal advisors concluded that these killings were very problematical, at least, under terms of international law. Last year, the defense ministry declared that "we, in many aspects, have evolved further" particularly in terms of the prohibition of killing insurgents outside of concrete combat situations. According to a document of the defense ministry, Bundeswehr soldiers are permitted "to target enemy insurgents, if necessary, even outside of concrete hostilities, also using deadly force."[4] The targeted assassination of Osama bin Laden, therefore according to this decree, is legitimate.

No Contradiction

The German government does not even intervene if German citizens are victims of targeted assassinations, such as occurred in Pakistan, October 4, 2010, when 20-year-old Bünyamin E. was a victim of a rocket fired from a US drone. There had been no armed hostilities preceding the drone attack and Pakistan is not at war. The German government, which does nothing against US drone attacks, even though many are carried out outside of the Afghan warzone, killing numerous civilians, is obliged to protect German citizens abroad, but up to today, has not intervened against this execution. Observers note that Bünyamin E.'s execution was only made possible through the information German authorities had gathered on him and passed on to their US partners preparing for their attacks.[5]

Assassination Lists

Germany is also helping US death squads in Afghanistan. Already last year, the so-called "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL) used by the military in Afghanistan was heavily criticized. It lists hundreds of persons "wanted" by the West. Their names are accompanied by a "c" for "capture" or a "k" for "kill".[6] German soldiers are also passing on information that serves as a basis for deciding to "capture" or "kill" - without due process of law.

Lawless Situation

Already last February, German government advisors cautioned that "in its cooperation with the US' war on terror," it is not rare that the EU is maneuvering "on the borderline of rule of law."[7] This could be a diplomatic circumlocution for a situation that is already beyond the rule of law and can only be described as lawless. With targeted killings, western countries are indeed applying methods, they have accused their enemies of: assassinating opponents outside all constraints of a legal framework. As law professor Kai Ambos points out in his recent statement, this is far beyond any rule of law. This puts the West on the same level as its enemies.

[1] Kai Ambos: Auch Terroristen haben Rechte; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05.05.2011
[2] Pressestatement von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel zur Tötung von Osama bin Laden; Berlin 02.05.2011
[3] Bundesminister Westerwelle zum Tod von Osama bin Laden; www.auswaertiges-amt.de 02.05.2011
[4] see also Gezielte Tötungen
[5] Bünyamins Tod; www.zeit.de 20.01.2011
[6] see also Gezielte Tötungen
[7] Annegret Bendiek: An den Grenzen des Rechtsstaates: EU-USA-Terrorismusbekämpfung; SWP-Studie S3, Februar 2011. See also An den Grenzen des Rechtsstaats