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human rights violations

Trump's Blackwater pardons 'broadly undermine humanitarian law,' U.N. expert says

United Nations human rights experts say President Trump's pardoning of four men convicted of killing Iraqi civilians in 2007 is a dangerous violation of humanitarian law.

Last week, Trump pardoned Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, four Blackwater contractors convicted for their roles in the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. During the unprovoked attack, 17 people, including two boys, were killed. Blackwater, a private military company, has since been sold and renamed Academi. At the time of the massacre, it was headed by Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, while Slough, Liberty, and Heard received sentences of 12 to 15 years in prison after being convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.

Jelena Aparac, chair of the U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries, told Reuters that under the Geneva Conventions, states must hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, and "these pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level." The move is an "affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families," Aparac declared, and if private security groups can "operate with impunity in armed conflicts," then states could feel emboldened to go around their obligations under humanitarian law.

The pardons have also been criticized by military leaders and other officials who were in Iraq at the time of the massacre. Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, called Trump's decision to pardon the men "hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity."