Dec. 24 (UPI) — The move by U.S. President Donald Trump to pardon and free four private security guards who killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007 has been met with outrage from the victims’ families and many others.
In a new round of pardons Wednesday night, Trump excused Blackwater Worldwide guards Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. They were found guilty in 2014 of launching the attack, unprovoked, at Baghdad’s Nisour Square 13 years ago — which killed 14 civilians, including two children, and injured 17 others.
All four were sentenced to at least 12 years in prison. Slatten, who started the shooting, was given a life sentence.
In offering justification for the pardons, Trump questioned the merits of the Justice Department’s prosecution of the privately contracted security guards and claimed the pardons are “broadly supported by the public.”
Many view the new round of pardons, which also excused crimes committed by political operatives Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, as the most galling of Trump’s presidency so far. Relatives of the victims and surviving victims reacted with disgust.
“They are terrorists,” Jasim Mohammed Al-Nasrawi, an Iraqi police officer who was injured in the attack, said of the four Blackwater guards.
“I am still not 100% recovered from my head wound, which [was] sustained in the gunfire by Blackwater guards in 2007, and have not been completely compensated for the attack. I will not waive my right to this case, I am not giving up.”
Iraq’s foreign ministry said Trump’s pardons don’t “take into account the seriousness of the crime[s] committed.”
The father of a 9-year boy who was one of the two children killed in the attack said Trump “broke my life again.”
“He broke the law. He broke everything. He broke the court. He broke the judge,” he told the BBC.
“Before [this] I felt that no-one [was] above the law.”
United Nations Human Rights Office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said Trump’s move “contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future.”
“The U.N. Human Rights Office calls on the U.S. to renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes.”
“President Trump has pardoned a child murderer,” said Paul Dickinson, an attorney who represented some of the victims.
“When the White House statement says the situation turned violent, the situation turned violent because of what those men did — not because of anything that happened around them. While they may have served honorably, they committed heinous crimes that day.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska reacted with a stern one-sentence statement.
“This is rotten to the core,” he said.