One week after President Donald Trump pardoned four Blackwater Worldwide contractors involved in a 2007 massacre, five United Nations experts declared the pardons a violation of international law.
The UN experts cited a violation of the Geneva Convention that says that nations much hold war criminals accountable.
Fourteen Iraqi civilians were killed, and 17 others were wounded.
In 2015, Nicholas Slatten was convicted of the most serious crime of first-degree murder. Three others, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.
The White House defended the pardons by claiming the quartet should have not been prosecuted in the first place.
“These veterans were working in Iraq in 2007 as security contractors responsible for securing the safety of United States personnel,” the White House said. “When the convoy attempted to establish a blockade outside the ‘Green Zone,’ the situation turned violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians. Initial charges against the men were dismissed, but they were eventually tried and convicted on charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.
“On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten’s trial. Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself.”
“These pardons violate US obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” said Jelena Aparac, chair-rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.
“Ensuring accountability for such crimes is fundamental to humanity and to the community of nations,” she added.
Joining Aparac in condemning the pardons were Lilian Bobea, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel and Sorcha MacLeod, who are appointed to the UN's Human Rights Council.