UN rights experts press US over bin Laden killing

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UN human rights experts on Friday pressed the United States for full disclosure of the facts surrounding the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden because of the example such action could set.

"Actions taken by States in combating terrorism, especially in high profile cases, set precedents for the way in which the right to life will be treated in future instances," said the UN special rapporteur on counter terrorism measures, Martin Scheinin, and the rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, Christof Heyns.

"In respect of the recent use of deadly force against Osama bin Laden, the United States of America should disclose the supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards."

"For instance it will be particularly important to know if the planning of the mission allowed an effort to capture bin Laden," they added in a statement.

The White House's shifting story of the attack has raised doubts about US assurances that special operations forces sent to bin Laden's hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad were prepared to take him alive.

US Attorney General Eric Holder insisted Wednesday that the raid during which bin Laden was killed "was lawful and consistent with our values."

The two experts acknowledged that "acts of terrorism are the antithesis of human rights" and that in some exceptional cases, "use of deadly force may be permissible as a measure of last resort... in order to protect life."

"However, the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment."

"It may well be that the questions that are being asked about the operation could be answered, but it is important to get this into the open," the experts said.

UN High Commissionner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has repeated a similar call for full disclosure.

© 2011 AFP

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