Trump's pardon for Blackwater Iraq guards an 'affront to justice' – UN experts

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 30 (APP): United States President Donald Trump’s pardon of four American men convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as security contractors in 2007 violated US obligations under international law, United Nations human rights experts said Wednesday.

The Blackwater Worldwide contractors were prosecuted and convicted of multiple criminal acts committed during a massacre at Nisour Square in Baghdad which left 14 unarmed civilians dead and at least 17 wounded.

In 2015 the US courts convicted Nicholas Slatten of first-degree murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” Jelena Aparac, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

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Ms. Aparac called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons issued by President Trump on December 22.

“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,” she said, adding, “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.”

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The Working Group, she said, 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 Group is comprised of five independent experts: Jelena Aparac (Chairperson-Rapporteur), Lilian Bobea, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel, and Sorcha MacLeod.