Thursday, May 5, 2011

Justice for all?

      Justice is defined as the “fair and proper administration of laws”. For as powerful a word as justice is, it is rarely used in the legal realm. Yet, with the end of one of the greatest manhunts the world has ever seen, this word is a headliner outside the legal realm. President Obama alone used this word five times when he announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

      The first time he said “justice”, he stated that the attackers would be brought to justice. The second time, he stated that Osama bin Laden specifically would be brought to justice. The third time, he stated that Osama’s death was justice. The fourth time, he said that the Navy Seals worked to pursue justice. And the fifth time, he closed his speech with the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, everybody and their mother is saying that justice has been done. This leads to the question, has the word “justice” been used correctly?

Obama in his first situation room
      A fair and proper administration of law would mean that the Navy Seals had Pakistan’s permission to enter, were instructed to capture Osama bin Laden, hand him over to the proper interrogating authorities, and let due process take its course. President Obama, as a former constitutional law professor, knows this. However, from what news reports are saying, the Navy Seals were never instructed to capture Osama, rather it was a “kill operation” from the beginning. Additionally, reports first said that Osama attacked and now the reports say that he was unarmed and only resisted. How much did he resist? Did it deserve a shot to the head and chest? And ultimately, was there ever any intention of carrying out due process of law?

All kidding aside, is a President the decider?
      But, what if killing bin Laden was a good idea? Had bin Laden not been killed, then this would lead to a begrudgingly slow process through the courts. This would parallel what we see today for Guantanamo Bay’s long-term inmates. Advocates for due process and, thus, justice, would argue that capturing and detaining him would not only be proper, but it would be the only option (unless he used deadly force). Yet, on the other hand, if bin Laden went through the court system and was held in prison for even longer than a day, how likely is it that terrorists would have wreaked havoc worldwide? Quite likely, apparently. Although the terrorists would not know where bin Laden was being held, that would be all the more reason to quickly gather, arm themselves, and blow up in whatever public locations they could.  Yet, the question is a very dangerous question.  This is because nobody knows who gets to make the decision to forgo due process and be the decider.  The decision affects the very process that makes America the country with the greatest court system in the world.  Whether you raped a hundred people or stole $50, you are entitled to access to the court system.

      Burying bin Laden at sea while everybody found out about the news story makes little sense. Whatever area held his dead body for inspection would not have risked the safety of the civilian population.  Would any terrorist care to retrieve the body of bin Laden? After all, it is just a dead body. A dead body that no longer serves a purpose to Al Qaeda, which is an organization whose end goal for its soldiers is death. And if the body serves no purpose, then why would they bother with its retrieval? If the answer is that Al Qaeda would need it for an Islamic funeral prayer, then that is incorrect because funeral prayers can happen in absentium. And if the answer is to not create a shrine for terrorists, that is also incorrect because these so-called Muslims do not worship people. They would see that as stepping on worship of God.

      Many are happy that bin Laden is dead, saying that he deserved it. Upon hearing this, Gandalf’s words provide great wisdom,
Osama bin Killed
Many who live deserve death, and some that die deserve life - can you give it to them? Do not be so quick to deal out death and judgment. For even the very wisest cannot see all ends.
This is true, it is hard to see what could have been the future, let alone what happened on that night in the Battle of bin Laden Hill. But, imagine seeing Osama bin Laden in handcuffs being escorted to a courtroom in orange prison garb. Imagine seeing images of him sitting at the defendant’s table. Imagine hearing the jury’s verdict. That would have been a fair and proper administration of laws. That would have been justice.

Or does the law of war just screw everything up?

Note:  I do not support Osama in any way whatsoever.  As a student of law, I care for due process and everybody's right to it.  Because everybody does have a right to it.  Lawyers may represent murderers and rapists, but that does not mean the lawyer agrees with murder and rape, he/she just wants to carry out due process.  I asked an international human rights scholar, "Do you feel that Saddam received due process?"  He replied, "I think both of us know the answer to that question."