The UN human rights office has expressed deep concern over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon four former employees of an American security firm convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians in the capital Baghdad in 2007.
“We are deeply concerned by the U.S. president’s recent pardons for four security personnel from the private military firm Blackwater who were convicted of murdering 14 Iraqi civilians,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said in a statement Wednesday.
“These four individuals were sentenced to terms ranging from 12 years to life in prison, including for first-degree murder,” she said. “Their pardons contribute to impunity and have the effect of encouraging others to commit such crimes in the future.”
Trump on Tuesday pardoned the four Blackwater perpetrators – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten – who were part of an armored convoy that opened fire indiscriminately on a crowd of unarmed people in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
In 2014, Slatten, who was the first to start shooting, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, while the other three were each sentenced to 30 years in prison for voluntary and attempted manslaughter.
Hurtado said victims of serious human rights violations have the right to see that perpetrators receive punishments commensurate with the severity of their behavior and called on Washington to fulfill its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes.
The Iraqi government also condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the “gravity of the crimes committed” had been ignored by the White House and contradicted the Trump administration’s stated “commitment” to human rights, justice and the rule of law.
The pardon, the statement added, did not take into account the “dignity of the victims and the feelings and rights of their relatives.” Baghdad will urge Washington to reconsider the decision, the statement said.
“Blood cheaper than water”
The Nisour Square massacre enraged the Iraqi people at the time, and Trump’s pardons have once again rubbed salt into the wound of Iraqis who suffered enormously after the U.S. invasion of their country in 2003 and the widespread atrocities committed by American forces.
Hassan Jaber Salman, a lawyer who survived the Nisour Square massacre with his son, said during the 2014 trial that American forces “shot everything that moved in the square.” “Women, children, young people, they shot everyone,” he said. Speaking to CNN after the pardon, Salman called Trump’s decision shocking and disappointing.
“The notorious Blackwater Company killed Iraqi citizens in Nisour Square. Today we heard that they were released on the personal orders of President Trump, as if they don’t care about the spilled Iraqi blood,” Baghdad resident Saleh Abed told AFP news agency.
Jasim Mohammed Al-Nasrawi, a police officer who also survived the massacre, told Trump not to “pardon or release the perpetrators. They are terrorists.”
“I still have not recovered 100 percent from the head wound I suffered in 2007 when Blackwater guards shot me, and I have not been fully compensated for the attack. I will not give up my right to this case, I will not give up, ” Al-Nasrawi told CNN.
A former classmate of a medical student killed in the massacre called the pardons “a complete outrage.”
“To them, our blood is cheaper than water and our demands for justice and accountability are just an annoyance to them,” the classmate told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Trump’s move comes at a time when anti-American sentiment in Iraq is strong. Earlier this year, the U.S. president ordered attacks near Baghdad that killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and Iranian supreme commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani – two very popular figures among the Iraqi people.
by Jeremy Abbott – American Correspondent