On Wednesday, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries condemned President Donald Trump’s recent pardons of four ex-Blackwater contractors, who were all convicted of crimes related to a massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The four ex-contractors — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard — had been convicted of crimes including first-degree murder and voluntary and attempted manslaughter, but Trump’s move allowed the murderers — whose actions claimed the lives of 14 Iraqis — to walk free. Jelena Aparac, who chairs that U.N. working group, called Trump’s pardons “an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families.”
As Reuters summarizes, the U.N. human rights experts on the panel observed that the Geneva Conventions “[state] to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act as private security contractors.” When these private contractors are allowed to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts” — as in the case of Trump’s pardons of the four ex-Blackwater operatives — then other countries could feel free to perpetrate further violence. As the U.N. panel put it:
‘These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level.’
The Trump administration claimed that the recently announced wave of pardons — which included clemency for Trump allies like Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, Trump son-in-law/ adviser Jared Kushner’s father — were “broadly supported by the public,” although the foundation for this claim seems uncertain, at best. In reality, a slew of Trump’s pardons seem like clear political favors. Among others, he also granted clemency to Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, ex-GOP Congressmen who faced charges including fraud and insider trading — and were among Trump’s first supporters in Congress.
Trump’s recent pardons for the ex-Blackwater contractors emerged the year after the president pardoned Eddie Gallagher, an ex-Navy SEAL who stabbed an ISIS-connected teenage captive to death while in Iraq and then posed with the corpse. Besides that incident, Gallagher also faced accusations of “shooting a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper’s roost,” as The Guardian summarizes. Gallagher was convicted of “wrongfully posing for an unofficial picture with a human casualty,” which Trump eventually overturned.