GENEVA — U.S. forces may have had no other option but to kill Osama bin Laden during the top-secret raid on his Pakistan hideaway, a United Nation human rights investigator said Monday.
The U.N.’s independent investigator on extrajudicial killings said capturing suspects is always preferable if possible.
“The ideal from a human rights point of view is always to capture and to try, rather than to kill on sight,” Christof Heyns said in an email to The Associated Press.
“However, it is not clear from the facts we have so far whether this was indeed possible,” he said. “It has to be accepted that in some cases it is not a realistic option.”
It is unclear whether bin Laden attempted to surrender at any time during the raid before he was killed.
U.S. efforts to take out suspected terrorists have been widely criticized by human rights groups who claim Washington is engaging in illegal assassinations. Washington has countered by citing the laws of war in its justification for such targeted killings.
Heyns, a South African law professor, said scholars have yet to agree whether the fight against al-Qaida in Pakistan is subject to the rules of war, which give countries greater leeway to pursue their enemies than peacetime law.
“What one can say, is that the indications so far appear to be that considerable effort was at least taken to minimize casualties, including civilian casualties,” he said.
Heyns’ predecessor, Philip Alston, last year called for countries to draw up new safeguards to ensure innocent bystanders aren’t harmed in targeted killings, particularly when unmanned drones are used.