Nuremberg lawyer: Bin Laden killing was wrong
Video: As US releases films from Osama’s hide-out in Abbottabad, Ferencz slams ‘instant justice’
A former chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials said today that the "instant justice" meted out to Osama bin Laden a week ago was morally wrong and the United States should have done everything possible to bring him to trial.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Benjamin B Ferencz said he understood how the US Navy Seals felt when they came face to face with the man who had allegedly sanctioned the deaths of 3,000 defenceless people on 9/11. He understood, too, "the temptation of instant justice".
But it was wrong.
Ferencz, now 91 years old, recalled how he once came close to dispensing summary justice himself when, as a sergeant in the US army, he found himself holding a gun to the head of a German SS officer on the liberation of a concentration camp in the last days of the Second World War. He was shaking, he said, and the Nazi officer was shaking too.
He did not shoot and in the course of the Nuremberg trials, which lasted from 1945 to 1949, he saw many men like the one he had confronted brought to justice.
But Nuremberg allowed the facts to be examined before a death sentence was handed down. In the case of Osama bin Laden, he felt the world was still not sure of the facts. A fair trial was the only corrective.
Do we want to live in the kind of society, he asked, where we kill the perpetrator of a crime and all his children, without knowing the full facts?
Ferencz joins a growing list of people questioning the manner of Osama bin Laden's death. The Archbishop of Canterbury said last week he felt "very uncomfortable" about it, while two senior United Nations officials have asked that the US explain the precise details of Bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad.
As Ferencz wrote in a letter to the New York Times, "The Nuremberg trials earned worldwide respect by giving Hitler's worst henchmen a fair trial so that truth would be revealed and justice under law would prevail. Secret non-judicial decisions based on political or military considerations undermine democracy."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has released a series of videos discovered in the Pakistan compound where Bin Laden had been living. They show Bin Laden rehearsing speeches – and in one film watching TV coverage of himself.
In that film, a grey-bearded Bin Laden, wrapped in a blanket and wearing a woolly hat sits on the floor with remote control in hand. Watching coverage of himself on al-Jazeera, Bin Laden rocks backwards and forwards.
He changes channels a number of times, but always to watch programmes about himself. In one video, he watches old images of himself climbing a steep mountain.
At one point, Bin Laden can be seen talking to somebody off-screen, but as the Pentagon has released the videos without sound, it is not possible to hear what he says.
As it made the films public, the US also said that Bin Laden was actively involved in directing al-Qaeda from his Abbottabad compound. It had previously been thought he was cut off from the terrorist group, but now says his Pakistan refuge was a "hub". ·
Comments are now closed on this article