Osama Bin Laden – if only we had let him go to court 10 years ago

Just hearing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death and thinking what a waste of 10 years and numerous lives. Straight after 9/11 the Taliban put Osama bin Laden under house arrest and offered to hand him over to an international Islamic court. Just imagine the world today of we had taken up this offer. Instead of a Robin Hood figure and now a martyr, he would have been a criminal tried and convicted.

Osama bin Laden had few friends in the governments of the Mulsim world, even the Taliban, which had been secretly trying to get rid of him to the US for some years before 9/11. Maybe the Islamic court would have had him imprisoned or executed itself. Maybe it would have extradited him to the US to stand trial there. Either way it would have been under an Islamic aegis, rather than perceived as an act against Islam.

Just imagine the world now with no Afghan war, no perceived invasion of Muslim countries (although maybe the Iraq war would have happened earlier without Afghanistan to take attention). So many thousands of lives. Possibly no Bali, Madrid or London bombings.

One of the reason there was no public pressure at the time for this legal rather than military route was the lack of reporting. I was perhaps fortunate to be flying on 9/11 and spent the three weeks after in South Africa where the detention was well reported. When I returned home, it was mentioned just a few times in interviews and discussions and in each case the interviewer ignored it and moved on to a fresh questions as if it were too embarrassing to be discussed. I heard later that, in the early days after 9/11, the BBC was more open in its reporting, but got its ‘wrists slapped’ by government, and so, by the time I was back, was avoiding difficult issues; something that sadly seems to be the case since in many conflicts.

If 10 years ago we had cared more for justice than revenge, then Osama bin Laden could have been a symbol of unity between Islamic and Western worlds, jointly prosecuted and condemned for the killing of innocents. Instead he has become a cause of division, that is unlikely to end with his death,

3 thoughts on “Osama Bin Laden – if only we had let him go to court 10 years ago

  1. Your experience in South Africa is quite revealing. I’d be interested to hear who else publicly recognised the jurisdiction of the Islamic Court in this case and whether or not the UN became involved.

  2. This is an interesting story, but could any western government be expected to take seriously an offer to hand Osama to an “Islamic Court” as opposed to a neutral international court? In the context, one would surely read “Islamic” as “biassed in favour of the defendant”? One should also not forget that the Taliban regime was already showing itself viciously opposed to human rights (particularly, of course, the rights of women) – if anything the West was to blame for having helped this regime to come to power in the first place.


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