I understand the Bin Laden family wanted some answers around the death of Osama Bin Laden, but their legal analysis of the remedies they seek is, well, somewhat lacking. From a statement from the Bin Laden family:

Failure to answer these questions will force us to go to International forum for justice such as International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice and UN must take notice of the violation of international law and assist us to have answers for which we are lawful in seeking them.

First, the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction whatsoever in the Bin Laden killing. The killing occurred in Pakistan (not an ICC member state) by armed forces of the United States (not an ICC member state) of a national of Saudi Arabia (not an ICC member). The only way the ICC could have any jurisdiction in this case would be if the Security Council authorizes it. But I dare say that is an unlikely event, given America’s veto power.

Theoretically, the Security Council could establish a Special Tribunal to hear the case, as it has done for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Harriri. But again, that would have to survive an American veto.

The International Court of Justice is also a non-starter. This is where countries sue each other over disputes.  Individuals can’t sue countries at the ICJ.

What can “the UN” do?  Ban Ki Moon and the top UN human rights official has fairly wide berth to appoint an investigator to look into the circumstances of his death, but that is about it. (And it would appear there is not much desire to do so on the part of the UN system. It is politically difficult, plus it does not seem like a good use of UN resources, which are already stretched thin.)

Ironically, perhaps the Bin Laden families’ best hope of legal recourse is the American legal system. But even then, relying on something like the Alien Tort Claims statute is probably a huge, huge stretch.

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