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Terrorism Prevention: Operation Geronimo

Operation Geronimo was carried out by the US military on May 1-2, 2011, in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. As a result of the actions of the special forces, the head of al-Qaeda was killed. The leader of the terrorists was identified by his appearance, and his identity was confirmed by DNA analysis. Soon after the special operation, bin Laden’s body was buried at sea. In August 1998, US President Bill Clinton declared Osama bin Laden Public Enemy Number One. It was then that the CIA began a large-scale hunt for a person until that time was considered only a major sponsor of extremists. Bin Laden was liquidated almost 13 years later as a result of an operation in Pakistan.

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After the operation by US forces on the territory of another country, the opinions of world leaders about the legality of Operation Geronimo were divided. On the one hand, the United States, by killing the head of the group, violated human rights, moreover, outside the United States. On the other hand, as US officials later report, the operation was a mission to kill or detain, since the US does not kill unarmed people willing to surrender, but also that it was clear from the very beginning that whoever was behind these walls, he was not going to give up. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said the operation was “a violation of the country’s sovereignty.” (Ghosh, 2011). According to the former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, this was a clear violation of international law.

However, international law on armed conflicts and the UN Charter allows a foreign government to conduct military operations on the territory of another country if that country itself is not capable and ready to cope with the problem. Speaking before the US Senate Judicial Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “The operation… was justified as an act of national self-defense” (Pelofsky, & Vicini, 2011). It is legal to attack an enemy commander on the battlefield. He called bin Laden’s assassination a huge step forward in achieving justice for the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans killed on September 11, 2001 (Transcript, 2011).

The UN Security Council issued a statement welcoming the news of bin Laden’s death, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “pleased.” (Ghosh, 2011). Two United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement requesting additional information on the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s assassination to investigate the legality of the US military operation in Pakistan.

From the side of the laws of the United States, the operation had every right to take place. The US Congress passed a Permit to Use Military Force Against Terrorists following the Al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001. This authorization authorizes the President to use necessary and appropriate force against those countries, organizations, or individuals who, in his opinion, were implicated in the attacks. This assassination is not prohibited by the long-standing prohibition of assassination in Presidential Order 12333 (Executive Order, 1981). It was a military action in the current US armed conflict with Al-Qaeda. It is not prohibited to kill specific leaders of enemy forces. The prohibition on killing also does not apply to killing in self-defense. The operation in which bin Laden was killed was carried out legally. The combatants were faced with the task of capturing or killing, and since, according to numerous sources, the leader of the group resisted, the murder of Osama bin Laden is justified and legal.


Transcript of senate judiciary committee hearing on Justice Department Oversight. (2011). Internet Archive. Web.

Un Security Council, Ban Ki-moon welcome Bin Laden’s death. (2011). Bloomberg LP. Web.

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The provisions of Executive Order 12333 of Dec. 4, 1981 (1981).

Pelofsky, J., & Vicini, J. (2011). Bin Laden killing was U.S. self-defense: U.S. REUTERS. Web.

Ghosh, P. (2011). Pakistan Pm’s speech on Osama bin Laden situation. International Business Times. Web.

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