(Noted News) — Human rights experts from the United Nations believe that Donald Trump is violating international law by pardoning men from defense contractor Blackwater, who were imprisoned for allegedly needlessly killing 14 unarmed civilians in Baghdad.
While working as contractors for the US military in 2007, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter, all receiving at least 12 years in prison. Nicholas Stratten was convicted of first-degree murder, getting a life sentence.
In a series of pardons issued by Donald Trump on Christmas Eve, the four men, for reasons unknown, were included in the president’s batch, prompting the UN’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries to denounce Trump’s decision.
Jelena Aparac, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group said, “Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families.”
“The Geneva Conventions oblige States to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act 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.”
Aparac goes on to say that by giving a double standard to private contractors, it will encourage other nations to circumvent the rules of war by outsourcing military operations to the private sector.
“Ensuring accountability for such crimes is fundamental to humanity and to the community of nations. Pardons, amnesties, or any other forms of exculpation for war crimes open doors to future abuses when States contract private military and security companies for inherent state functions.”
“The Working Group is extremely concerned that by permitting private security contractors to operate with impunity in armed conflicts, States will be encouraged to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law by increasingly outsourcing core military operations to the private sector.”
The circumstances of the killings are disputed between the contractors and their accusers. The four men were part of an operation to create a safe evacuation route for their team after a car bomb explosion. The route needed to go through a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad. At some point, the men claim to have been suddenly under attack by enemy fire and started spraying bullets in retaliation, killing 14 civilians as collateral damage.
Brian Heberlig, a lawyer for one of the four pardoned defendants said he was “overwhelmed with emotion at this fantastic news,” that the men were exonerated.
Families of the victims and those close to the case were outraged at the pardon, however.
Jasim Mohammed Al-Nasrawi, a police officer who took a bullet to the head while on duty in the area where the shooting happened, said the 4 men from Blackwater “are terrorists.”
“I am still not 100% recovered from my head wound, which [was] sustained in the gunfire by Blackwater guards in 2007, and have not been completely compensated for the attack. I will not waive my right to this case, I am not giving up.”
The Blackwater pardons join a long list of pardons issued by the president that have sparked bi-partisan controversy and opposition.
Republican Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave a press release regarding the pardons that consisted of the single sentence “This is rotten to the core.”
Other notable names on Trump’s pardon list are:
Roger Stone, Trump-ally and long time Republican provocateur and strategist who was convicted on 5 counts of witness tampering and providing false statements.
Paul Manafort, a Republican lobbyist and former campaign chair for Trump, who was convicted for a myriad of tax and bank fraud.
Charles Kushner, Jared Kushner’s father, who was convicted on 16 counts of fraud and false statements.
Disappointing many, President Trump has as of yet decided not to pardon the one person that probably more people than anyone want pardoned: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Days before Trump’s list of pardons was released, Assange’s fiancée Stella Morris went on Fox News to plead with the president to exonerate him.
“Whatever you think of Julian Assange and what he did, he is effectively a journalist. He took information and he put it in a place the public could read it,” she said.
On January 4th, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against extraditing Assange to the US.