Every month, in a relaxed location in central London the London Legal Salon will meet to discuss the big questions facing the law today. Attendance is always free. This blog will publish articles by attendees and the organisers to supplement the debates at our monthly meetings.

Every meeting will be introduced by a short talk from a lawyer or commentator in the area under examination. The discussion will then be opened to those attending to make contributions or ask questions. The meetings will last around ninety minutes and operate under Chatham House rules.

The discussions and the articles on this website will look to scrutinise the black letter of the law and its implications in the Courts and wider society. They will also look to situate the law in its historical and political context. We hope that by developing an understanding of where the law has come from, and why the law has taken the form it has today, we may begin to form an idea of where we want it to go.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Can extra judicial killing ever be just?

The next meeting of the London Legal Salon will be on Monday the 12th of December 2011 at 1930. We have changed the venue this time around. We will now be hosted by the Hoop and Grapes on Farringdon Street (http://www.thehoopandgrapes.co.uk/Menu.htm). Attendance is free as always.

Moral philosopher Piers Benn will introduce a discussion on the moral and legal questions behind extra judicial killing. An introductory blurb is below. Readings can be obtained by emailing londonlegalsalon@gmail.com
Look forward to seeing you on the 12th,

The London Legal Salon


Following the capture of the Nazi leadership after the Second World War Harry Truman, the then president of the United States, insisted that they should stand trial. He said their summary execution ‘would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride…the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear”.

In contrast, following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May, Barak Obama proclaimed to the world that ‘justice had been done’. But had it? The White House justified the killing by pointing out that the United States were at war with Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden was a military target. Others argued variously that trying Bin Laden would be either impossible or undesirable. But opinion was divided. Many, including Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, claimed that Bin Laden was entitled to due process and that a trial would have allowed for his ‘de-mystification’ in the dock.

Bin Laden is just one of many suspected members of Al-Qaeda to have been killed by the United States authorities through targeted assassinations without any judicial sanction. Similar tactics have also been employed by the Israeli government in targeting suspected terrorists in Palestine. These ‘extra judicial’ killings raise important questions about the role of International Law in regulating modern conflicts and international anti-terrorism. Is it possible to try suspected international terrorists and when, if ever, should we want to? Since 1949, the Geneva Convention has sought to set the minimum standards for a state’s behaviour in the course of war. But at a time where wars are fought not just between states, but between states and amorphous and elusive organisations like Al Qaeda, have the old rules of war become out-dated?