Geneva, Dec 31 : US President Donald Trump’s pardoning of four private security company Blackwater guards convicted of committing a massacre in Iraq violated American obligations under international law and should be seen as “an affront to justice”, a group of UN experts said here.
In a statement on Wednesday, the UN experts also called on all states parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons, reports Xinhua news agency.
On December 22, President Trump granted full pardons to 15 people, including the four Blackwater security guards — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — convicted of killing 14 Iraqi civilians.
The experts stressed that the Blackwater guards were prosecuted and convicted of multiple criminal acts committed during the 2007 massacre at Nisour Square, Baghdad.
“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 UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries.
“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.
The other four members of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Lilian Bobea, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel, and Sorcha MacLeod, also signed Wednesday’s statement.
Slatten, Slough, Liberty and Heard were among 19 Blackwater private security contractors assigned to guard a convoy of four heavily-armoured vehicles carrying US personnel.
According to the US Justice Department, at about noon that day several of the contractors opened fire in and around Nisoor Square, a busy roundabout that was immediately adjacent to the heavily-fortified Green Zone.
When they stopped shooting, at least 14 Iraqi civilians were dead – 10 men, two women and two boys, aged nine and 11.
Slatten was found guilty of committing first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2019.
Following a retrial, Slough, Liberty and Heard subsequently had their sentences reduced to 15, 14 and 12 years, respectively.