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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 24 (APP): The United Nations human rights office, OHCHR, has sharply criticized US President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon four security guards from the notorious private military firm Blackwater who were serving jail sentences for killing 14 civilians, including two children, in Baghdad in 2007, a massacre that sparked an international outcry over the use of mercenaries in war.

OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado, said in a statement on Wednesday that pardoning the four culprits for their part in the killings that took place when they and other guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, “contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future.”

President Trump announced the decision to pardon the men on Tuesday. A statement from the White House said that the four, all military veterans, had “a long history of service to the nation”, arguing the move reflected broad public sentiment in the US.

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In 2014, a US federal court found the men guilty of murder in one case, while three were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and other charges, according to news reports.

The men were part of a Blackwater team guarding a US diplomatic convoy, and according to the US Justice Department at around noon on 16 September, they opened fire at the busy roundabout, believing, they said, that they were coming under attack.

OF the four now pardoned, one was sentenced to life in prison and the others received 30-year terms, but after appeals and two retrials for one of the men – sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2019 – three of them had their sentences reduced to between 12 and 15 years.

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“By investigating these crimes and completing legal proceedings”, Ms. Hurtado, “the US complied with its obligations under international law. Victims of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law also have the right to a remedy.

“This includes the right to see perpetrators serve punishments proportionate to the seriousness of their conduct”, she added, calling on the US “to renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes.”