Four mercenaries involved in the killing of at least 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007 have been pardoned by US President Donald Trump, in a move that has outraged Iraqis and drawn swift condemnation from the UN.
The four Blackwater military contractors – Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – were among 19 assigned to guard an American diplomatic convoy in Baghdad on 16 September, 2007.
At around noon, however, several of these 19 opened fire in and around Nisoor Square. At least 14 civilians – 10 men, two women and two boys – were killed, with Iraqi authorities putting the death toll at 17.
According to US prosecutors, Slatten was the first to open fire without provocation, in an incident that caused international outrage and strained US-Iraq relations. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, having been found guilty of first-degree murder. The other three men, who were charged with voluntary and attempted manslaughter, were each jailed for 30 years.
The convictions of the four men had been welcomed as a rare occasion in which US nationals had been held accountable for war crimes, Trump’s pardon is set to reopen old wounds.
Iraq is now expected to lobby President-elect Joe Biden – who, as Vice-President, had promised to pursue a fresh prosecution after an initial one was thrown out, an effort which proved successful – to revoke the pardons.