Friday, February 20, 2009

Livni, Legal Or/And Legitimate

She acknowledged that she was prepared to kill for her country. “To kill and assassinate, though it’s not strictly legal, if you do it for your country, it’s legitimate.”

The "she" there is Tzipi Livni.

Now, as a lawyer, she should know that

...there are no international laws banning assassination. The closest thing to a prohibition is the 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents. This treaty (which the United States signed) bans attacks against heads of state while they conduct formal functions, heads of government while they travel abroad, and diplomats while they perform their duties.

The Protected Persons Convention was intended to ensure that governments could function and negotiate even during war. Without it, countries might start a war (or get drawn into one) and then find themselves unable to stop because there was no leader at home to make the decision to do so and because their representatives were getting picked off on their way to cease-fire negotiations.

But other than these narrow cases, the Protected Persons Convention says nothing about prohibiting assassination. Even then it applies only to officials representing bona fide governments and "international organizations of an intergovernmental character." So presumably the convention shields the representatives of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Red Cross, and, probably, the PLO. It does not protect bosses of international crime syndicates or the heads of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

Another treaty that some might construe as an assassination ban is the Hague Convention on the "laws and customs" of war. The Hague Convention states that "the right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited." (This was a bold statement in 1907, when the convention was signed.)...

...the main legal constraints on sanctioned assassination other than domestic law, which makes murder a crime in almost all countries, are rules that nations impose on themselves.

The U.S. government adopted such a ban in 1976, when President Ford—responding to the scandal that resulted when the press revealed CIA involvement in several assassinations—issued Executive Order 11905. This order prohibited what it called "political assassination" and essentially reaffirmed an often-overlooked ban that Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms had adopted for the CIA four years earlier. Jimmy Carter reaffirmed the ban in 1978 with his own Executive Order 12036. Ronald Reagan went even further in 1981; his Executive Order 12333 banned assassination in toto. This ban on assassination remains in effect today.

Even so, there has been a disconnect between our policy and practice. The United States has tried to kill foreign leaders on several occasions since 1976, usually as part of a larger military operation.

For example, in 1986, U.S. Air Force and Navy planes bombed Libya after a Libyan terrorist attack against a nightclub frequented by American soldiers in Berlin. One of the targets was Muammar Qaddafi’s tent. During Desert Storm in 1991, we bombed Saddam Hussein’s official residences and command bunkers. After the United States linked Osama bin Laden to terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, we launched a cruise missile attack at one of his bases in Afghanistan.

Another opinion:

By examining the strategic and tactical pitfalls in assassination, and by examining human rights law and humanitarian laws regulating assassination, a conclusion is established that assassinations might be technically legal in some circumstances. Yet, complying with international legal obligations entailed therein, and forecasting the security related ramifications of an assassination are difficult.

Maybe in her attempts to subvert Israeli democracy after the elections in which her point-of-view lost resoundingly, Tzipi is assassination Israeli democracy?

(Kippah tip: Muqata for pointing me to the article even though I zeroed in on something else)

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