US President Donald Trump’s pardoning of four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were convicted of killing 14 Iraqi civilians was not a positive development, a UN spokesman said.
“We support what the (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights said. This development is not a positive one for accountability of crimes against civilians,” Xinhua news agency quoted Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as saying at a briefing on Thursday.
On the broader issue of paid mercenaries and paid military contractors, the Secretary-General has spoken out very forcefully on the negative influence that they have, he said.
It is also very important that accountability be registered when civilians are killed, Dujarric further said at the briefing.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that pardoning the four security guards contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future.
Trump on Tuesday 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 civilians in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
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.