10:50, December 30 49 0 theguardian.com

2020-12-30 10:50:05
Trump's Blackwater pardons an affront to justice, say UN experts

Donald Trump’s pardon of four American men convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors in 2007 violated US obligations under international law, United Nations human rights experts have said.

Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder and Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter over an incident in which US contractors opened fire in busy traffic in a Baghdad square and killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

The four contractors, who worked for the private security firm Blackwater, owned by the brother of Trump’s education secretary, were included in a wave of pre-Christmas pardons announced by the White House.

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said Jelena Aparac, the chair of the UN working group on the use of mercenaries.

The group said the Geneva conventions obliged states to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they are acting as private security contractors. “These pardons violate US obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” it said.

By allowing private security contractors to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts”, states would be emboldened to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law, the group said.

The pardons have been strongly criticised by many in the US. Gen David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, respectively the commander of US forces and the US ambassador in Iraq at the time of the incident, called Trump’s pardons “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity”.

In a statement announcing the pardons, the White House said the move was “broadly supported by the public” and backed by a number of Republican lawmakers.

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