One major obstacle in assessing the legality of the killing of Osama bin Laden is that we do not have all the facts. However, we also do not have all the law. The complexity of analyzing the legality of the killing begins with the threshold issue of applicable law. Is the conduct to be analyzed according to domestic law or international law? If the conduct is analyzed under international law, then several different bodies of international law are potentially applicable, including jus ad bellum (i.e., the law regulating recourse to the use of armed force), jus in bello (i.e., international humanitarian law or the law of armed conflict), international human rights law, international criminal law, and the law of state responsibility for injury to aliens, as well as those rules of international law that allocate jurisdiction among states. Even if the question of applicable law is settled, there are a number of potentially relevant legal issues that are unsettled within each of these bodies of law. This analysis examines the applicability and application of jus ad bellum, jus in hello, and international human rights law, and highlights some of these unresolved issues.
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