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The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Combative, provocative and engaging debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week's news stories. Chaired by Michael Buerk.

For the tens of thousands of Americans celebrating on the streets of New York and Washington the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US special forces was justice done at last. But for many the joy wasn't just prompted by the justice of his death; there was also retribution and revenge. The fact that he wasn't brought before a court and given the due process that our democracy demands didn't seem to trouble many, if any of them. And why should it? bin Laden was undoubtedly directly responsible for ordering the deaths of thousands of people and had inspired others to carry out many more horrific murders in his name. We don't know if those sent to get him had a shoot to kill policy, but a dead bin Laden conveniently avoids the messy prospect of a drawn-out trial, imprisonment and probable death sentence anyway. If anyone deserved it, surely it was him and didn't the nature of his crimes demand the retribution of his death?

Should we worry about the niceties of judicial process when it comes to the likes of terrorists? There are many who'd say that after the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, where more than 200 lost their lives and over 5000 were injured, that there was enough evidence and opportunity to justify killing bin Laden then. If we'd have been pro-active at that time the world would have been spared 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and possibly Iraq and countless lives would have been saved. And if we ruthlessly use lethal force against terrorists like bin Laden, because of the threat they pose to our lives and democracy, why not against someone like Colonel Gaddafi who arguably has just as much blood on his hands through the sponsoring of terrorism around the world and who, with his oil wealth and the power of the state behind him, has the means to produce weapons of mass destruction which really would threaten our civilisation.

Abdel Bari Atwan - Editor in chief in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an Arab daily newspaper
Met and interviewed Bin Laden in November 1996. He spent three days with him in Bora Bora, author of the Secret History of Al Qaeda
Stephen Powles - Barrister specialising in international criminal law and criminal justice.
Alexandros Petersen - Director of Research
Graham Foulkes - Lost his son David in the Edgware Road bomb on 7th July 2007.

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Melanie Phillips, Michael Portillo and Matthew Taylor.

Available now

45 minutes


The Evidence Toolkit

The Evidence Toolkit

Check out the claims made in news stories with this interactive tool.