Bin Laden Sons Say U.S. Broke International Law
The adult sons of Osama bin Laden have lashed out at President Obama over their father’s death, accusing the United States of violating legal principles.
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — The adult sons of Osama bin Laden have lashed out at President Obama in their first public reaction to their father’s death, accusing the United States of violating its basic legal principles by killing an unarmed man, shooting his family members and disposing of his body in the sea.
The statement, provided to The New York Times on Tuesday, said the family was asking why Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, “was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world.”
Citing the trials of Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, and Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian leader, the statement questioned “the propriety of such assassination where not only international law has been blatantly violated,” but the principles of presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial were ignored.
“We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems,” the statement said, adding that “justice must be seen to be done.”
The statement, prepared at the direction of Omar bin Laden, who had publicly denounced his father’s terrorism, was provided to The Times by Jean Sasson, an American author who helped the younger Mr. Bin Laden write a 2009 memoir, “Growing Up bin Laden.” A shorter, slightly different statement was posted on jihadist Web sites.
Omar bin Laden, 30, lived with his father in Afghanistan until 1999, when he left with his mother, Najwa bin Laden, who co-wrote the memoir. In the book and other public statements, the younger Mr. bin Laden had denounced violence of all kinds, a stance he repeated in the sons’ statement.
“We want to remind the world that Omar bin Laden, the fourth-born son of our father, always disagreed with our father regarding any violence and always sent messages to our father, that he must change his ways and that no civilians should be attacked under any circumstances,” the statement said. “Despite the difficulty of publicly disagreeing with our father, he never hesitated to condemn any violent attacks made by anyone, and expressed sorrow for the victims of any and all attacks.”
Condemning the shooting of one of the Qaeda leader’s wives during the assault on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the statement added, “As he condemned our father, we now condemn the president of the United States for ordering the execution of unarmed men and women.”
In explaining the killing of Bin Laden, Obama administration officials have cited the principle of national self-defense in international law, noting that Bin Laden had declared war on the United States, killed thousands of Americans and vowed to kill more.
The sons’ statement called on the government of Pakistan to hand over to family members the three wives and a number of children now believed to be in Pakistani custody and asked for a United Nations investigation of the circumstances of their father’s death.
None of Osama bin Laden’s sons other than Omar, who lives in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were named in the statement; Ms. Sasson said she believed it was approved by three other adult sons who have not lived with their father for many years. Before Osama bin Laden fled Afghanistan in 2001, he had at least 11 sons, one of whom was killed in the assault last week, and nine daughters, by Ms. Sasson’s count.
In addition to the statement, Ms. Sasson shared notes on what Omar bin Laden, who declined to be interviewed directly, had told her by telephone in recent days. The notes describe Mr. Bin Laden’s struggle, as he came of age, to understand and eventually reject his father’s embrace of religious violence.
Mr. Bin Laden told Ms. Sasson that the death of his father “has affected this family in much the same way as many other families” that experience such a loss. But he also described a childhood of “upheavals and relocations” that, she said, “caused his mother and siblings great upset and danger.”
Mr. Bin Laden said that by the age of 18, after Al Qaeda had plotted the bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa and two years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he had concluded “that the course of action his father was taking was not for him, irrespective of what his father’s wishes were,” Ms. Sasson said.
Eventually he asked his father’s permission to leave Afghanistan with his mother and younger siblings. He told Ms. Sasson that he “thanks Allah that his father granted his permission for this departure, otherwise the grief the family faces could be even greater.”