Your correspondents have rightly been critical of the questionable legality of American action against Bin Laden and Nato attempts to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi (Osama bin Laden and wild-west justice, 3 May). Some 65 years ago US prosecutors and politicians led the way in rejecting the idea of simply identifying and then executing Nazi leaders when they fell into allied hands. Justice Robert Jackson insisted that if the western allies wanted to hold the moral high ground they had to be seen to behave differently from the defeated axis states. The Nuremberg trials gave an opportunity through due legal process for the victor states to demonstrate that the rule of law had to be applied even to the most lawless acts.
How the wheel of history has turned? Instead we have extra-legal murder squads, concentration camps, torture of suspects, wilful disregard for legal sovereignty. No one will shed tears for Bin Laden or for Gaddafi, but if the rule of law was good enough for the Nazi leadership, responsible for the greatest mass murders in history, it must be good enough for our current conflicts. It is time to put an end to the idea that lynch law is a legitimate form of international justice and to try to base Obama's limp claim that "justice" has been done on a restoration of international behaviour that respects those rules and sets aside the unconvincing assertion that the western killing is the archway to democracy. Robert Jackson would be turning in his grave.
Professor Richard Overy