While many world leaders applauded the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden, there were concerns in Europe that the U.S. was wrong to act as policeman, judge and executioner.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended the action as lawful yesterday, but some in Europe said bin Laden should have been captured and put on trial.
“It was quite clearly a violation of international law,” former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said. “The operation could also have incalculable consequences in the Arab world.”
Ehrhart Koerting, Interior Minister in Berlin, said: “As a lawyer, I would have preferred to have seen him put on trial at the International Criminal Court.”
Gert-Jan Knoops, a Dutch-based international law specialist, said bin Laden should have been arrested and extradited to the United States. He drew parallels with the arrest of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who was put on trial in The Hague after his arrest in 2001.
“The Americans say they are at war with terrorism and can take out their opponents on the battlefield,” Knoops said. “But in a strictly formal sense, this argument does not stand up.”
The U.S. is not a signatory to the ICC and the court only has a mandate to investigate crimes that took place after 2002, meaning the attack on 9/11 is out of jurisdiction.
European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom wrote: “It would have been preferred to see Osama bin Laden before a court.”
In Italy, former center-left prime minister Massimo D’Alema said: “You don’t rejoice at the death of a man. Maybe if bin Laden had been captured and put on trial it would have been an even more significant victory.” That view was echoed in several newspaper editorials.
“We Europeans would have preferred bin Laden to be captured and tried because executions are contrary to our culture,” said the left-leaning La Repubblica daily.