Denounced: Trump pardons mercenary killers of Iraqi civilians

29th Jan 2021
Denounced: Trump pardons mercenary killers of Iraqi civilians

(Credit:Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons)

Nadine Osman

US President Donald Trump clemency of four security contractors, convicted of killing Iraqi civilians in 2007, has been denounced by the Government of Iraq and UN human rights experts.

“This decision didn’t take into consideration the seriousness of the committed crime and doesn’t go in line with the US announced a commitment to the values of human rights, justice and rule of law,” Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that urged the US to review the decision.

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said Jelena Aparac, Chair of the UN working group on the use of mercenaries, in a statement.

The Geneva Conventions oblige states to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act as private security contractors, the UN experts said. “These pardons violate US obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level.” Iraqi authorities will follow the case with the US through diplomatic channels.

The White House said late on December 22 that Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including former congressmen and the security contractors who worked for US paramilitary company Blackwater. The company has since changed its name to Academi, was founded by Erik Prince, whose sister, Betsy DeVos, was appointed Trump’s education secretary. Blackwater had a $1 billion government contract to protect American diplomats during the war in Iraq. In a 2007 congressional hearing on Blackwater misconduct, Prince refused his employees to be defined as mercenaries and did not share information about his company.

Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter, for opening fire in busy traffic intersection in a Baghdad square and killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

In October 2007, the UN released a two-year study that stated that private contractors, although hired as security guards, were performing military duties.

The report found that the use of contractors such as Blackwater was a “new form of mercenary activity” and illegal under international law; however, the US is not a signatory of the 1989 UN Mercenary Convention banning the use of mercenaries.

Nor is the US a signatory of the 1977 additional protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions in which Article 47 specifies that mercenaries are civilians who “take a direct part in the hostilities” and are “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain.” (The Protocol makes no distinction between defensive and offensive actions, but the US does make such a distinction, in that it does not regard defensive actions by security guards to be combat.)

Around noon on September 16, 2007, a car bomb exploded near the Izdihar compound, where US and Iraqi officials were meeting, and a Blackwater Tactical Support Team answering to the call sign Raven 23 took up positions on the south side of Nisour Square to secure an evacuation route for the US officials and another Blackwater team providing security for them.

Shortly after assuming their positions, ‘Raven 23’ began firing on civilians in response to an approaching car, killing fourteen and wounding twenty more.

FBI investigators described the scene as the “My Lai massacre of Iraq” – a reference to the infamous slaughter of civilian villagers by US troops during the Vietnam War in which only one soldier was convicted.

One Response to “Denounced: Trump pardons mercenary killers of Iraqi civilians”

AlsahdiqJanuary 30, 2021

Who can save any soul from Almighty’s Justice on that terrible, terrible day? The day of Justice. Who?

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