The United Nation’s human rights office criticized President Trump this week for pardoning four Blackwater guards who were convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians – claiming that the pardons contribute "to impunity."
"We are deeply concerned by the recent U.S. presidential pardons for four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were convicted for killing 14 Iraqi civilians," the statement by U.N. Human Rights Office spokesperson Marta Hurtado said.
"These four individuals were given sentences ranging from 12 years to life imprisonment, including on charges of first-degree murder. Pardoning them contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future," Hurtado said.
The four men were working as U.S. State Department contractors in 2007 when they opened fire in a crowded traffic circle — killing 14 Iraqis, including a child. The men’s defense lawyers argued that they returned fire after being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.
Nicholas Slatten was convicted of murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of manslaughter in 2014 after a months-long trial in federal court in Washington.
Supporters of the men argued that the punishment was excessive and the prosecution was tainted. The White House, in its statement announcing the pardons, said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that additional evidence should have been presented at Slatten's trial.
"Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself," the statement said.
The U.N. office called 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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.