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U.N. Claims Trump’s Pardons of Blackwater Contractors ‘Violate International Law’

By BEN KEW

United Nations human rights experts on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon four American men convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors in 2007 as a violation of international law.

Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard were previously convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter, while Nicholas Slatten was convicted for first-degree murder in relation to an incident when they opened fire in a square in the capital Baghdad and killed 14 unarmed civilians.

The four men, who were private contractors hired by the security firm Blackwater, were among various Christmas pardons recently 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, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

She continued:

The Geneva Conventions oblige States to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act as private security contractors. These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level.

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 U.N. statement added.

The pardons were met by outrage by some of those close to the case. Both General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, respectively commander of U.S. forces and U.S. ambassador in Iraq at the time of the incident, described the move as “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity.”

Iraq’s foreign ministry also argued that they do “not take into account the seriousness of the crime[s] committed.” However, the White House has argued that the move has broad public support. “The pardon of these four veterans is broadly supported by the public, including Pete Hegseth, and elected officials,” the statement read.

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