U.N. human rights experts said on Wednesday that Donald Trump’s pardon of four Blackwater guards convicted of killing Iraqi civilians in 2007 violates international law, according to Reuters.
The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries called the pardons an affront to justice and the victims of the attack.
“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said Jelena Aparac, chair of the U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries. “These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” Aparac added.
The four Blackwater contractors, who worked for the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos were in the first wave of pardons Trump issued before Christmas. The men were convicted by a federal jury in 2014 for their roles in the 2007 killings of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians after they opened fire in Nisour Square traffic circle in Baghdad.
Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.
The pardons were criticized by many, including General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the top US officials in charge of US foreign policy in Iraq at the time of the killings. They called Trump’s pardons “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity”.
The Geneva Conventions oblige states to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act as private security contractors, U.N experts said.
By allowing private security contractors to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts”, states will be emboldened to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law, they added.