Bin Laden and Awlaki: Lawful Targets

Harv. Int'l Rev. (Online Perspectives), 2011

4 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2013

See all articles by Shane Reeves

Shane Reeves

United States Military Academy, West Point

Date Written: October 26, 2011


Many have challenged the legality of the 2011 United States’ operations that resulted in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. Pakistan condemned the Bin Laden operation as a violation of international law; human rights advocates asserted that each man should have been captured instead of killed; and others claimed the operations were unlawful “assassinations” or, in the case of Awlaki, a violation of his constitutional rights as an American citizen. This article explains why these criticisms are all without merit and concludes that these military operations were legally justified under both international and domestic law.

Keywords: 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, assassination, self-defense, drones, use of force, armed conflict, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, law of war, continous combat function, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K10, K33

Suggested Citation

Reeves, Shane, Bin Laden and Awlaki: Lawful Targets (October 26, 2011). Harv. Int'l Rev. (Online Perspectives), 2011. Available at SSRN:

Shane Reeves (Contact Author)

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

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