Father of child killed in Iraq massacre says Trump’s Blackwater pardons ‘broke my life again’

Surrounded by Army cadets, President Donald Trump watches the first half of the 121st Army-Navy soccer game at the United States Military Academy's Michie Stadium on Saturday, December 12, 2020, in West Point, New York.
((AP Photo / Andrew Harnik))
Donald Trump's decision to apologize to four former private security companies who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad "was my life again," Mohammed Kinani, a US-Iraqi citizen whose son was killed, told the BBC.
"He broke the law. He broke everything. He broke the court. He broke the judge," said Mr. Kinani. "Before, I felt like nobody was above the law."
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On Tuesday, President Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard pardoned former contractors for the private security firm Blackwater who were in jail for killing at least 14 Iraqi civilians after using heavy weapons while guarding Baghdad's busy Nisoor in 2007 -The place had fired an American diplomatic convoy.
"Mr. Slatten, Mr. Slough, Mr. Liberty and Mr. Heard have long histories of service to the nation," the White House wrote when it announced the pardons.
It was also alleged "the pardon of these four veterans is largely supported by the public" before listing a group of Republican Congressmen who campaigned for the move.
Indeed, the Nisoor Square massacre sparked international outrage and condemnation of the use of private military contractors in war zones and left a deep scar in the already strained Iraq-US relations.
The incident happened while the group of former veterans was working as contractors for the State Department, guarding a convoy near the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The men mistakenly believed they were being attacked and opened fire on the crowded square with automatic weapons, grenades and a sniper rifle. At least 14 people were killed, although the Iraqi authorities had set the number to 17. All of the dead were civilians and included two women and two boys aged 9 and 11, one of whom was shot in the head. (The men's lawyers argued that they had been shot at by insurgents).
FBI investigators later dubbed the incident the "My Lai Massacre in Iraq", referring to the infamous murder of civilians by the US military during the Vietnam War.
Representatives of the former contractors welcomed the news.
Blackwater Guards, from left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. On Tuesday, December 22, 2020, President Donald Trump pardoned 15 people, including Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough, the four former government contractors convicted of a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that affected more than a dozen Iraqi civilians died and caused international riot over the use of private security forces in a war zone. (AP photo / file) AP
"We have always believed in Dustin's innocence and never gave up the fight to defend him," apologizes David Schertler, Mr. Heard's attorneys, the security officer for fatal Iraq shots / 2020/12/22 / 37a7e7ba-44bb -11eb- ac2a-3ac0f2b8ceeb_story.html "> told the Washington Post," He has served his country with honor, and today he has his well-deserved freedom. "
Meanwhile, civil society groups opposed the decision to overturn the men's legal convictions, which included murder, voluntary manslaughter, and decades of imprisonment, arguing that doing so would encourage future war criminals.
"President Trump has hit a shameful new low with the Blackwater pardons," Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, told The Independent in a statement. “These military contractors have been convicted for their role in killing 17 Iraqi civilians. Their actions caused havoc in Iraq, shame and horror in the United States, and a worldwide scandal. President Trump insults the memory of the Iraqi victims and with this action further deteriorates his office. "
The UN Human Rights Bureau, meanwhile, said that pardoning each of these men "contributes to impunity and encourages others to commit such crimes in the future".
"The UN Human Rights Office calls on the US to reaffirm its commitment to the fight against impunity for serious human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, and to meet its accountability obligations for such crimes," UNHR spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told the BBC.
Before their pardon, the group waged a lengthy battle against their various guilty beliefs. A US federal court found Mr. Slatten guilty of murder, while the other Blackwater members were charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and other crimes. Mr Slatten was allowed to live in prison while the others were to be locked up for decades. On appeal, Mr Slatten's conviction was overturned and the others were convicted again. In 2018, Mr Slatten had a full retrial that resulted in legal proceedings. He was then found guilty of murder again and sentenced to life in prison in 2019 without parole.
Blackwater, which has since been sold and renamed Academi since the incident, claims it has reformed its culture since the 2007 events.
“The security industry has developed dramatically since these events. Under the guidance of new owners and executives, Academi has invested heavily in compliance and ethics programs, training for our employees, and preventative measures to ensure strict compliance with all U.S. and local government laws. The company said Buzzfeed.
Erik Prince, the brother of Betsey DeVos, the education secretary of the Trump administration, founded Blackwater and was initially lauded as a private security company for supplying highly skilled ex-special forces, although the company eventually gained a dark reputation when its activists struck out during Iraq During the war, allegedly firing their weapons under the slightest pretext, also to clear traffic.
Mr. Prince, who is now the executive director of another security firm called Frontier Services Group, has campaigned with the Trump administration to lead a privatized war force in Afghanistan to fulfill the president's request to increase the presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East.
This is not the first time the president, who is polled to be a highly polarizing figure within the active service and veteran community, has pardoned those accused or convicted of crossing the line during the war.
Last year he pardoned a US commando that killed a suspected Afghan bomb maker and a former army lieutenant convicted of murder for ordering his men to shoot three Afghans.
That year he also defied the decision of top Navy officials and offered mercy and restored the rank of downgraded Navy SEAL convicted of posing for a photo next to a dead teenage ISIS prisoner and accused of He denies having killed him with a hunting blade.
"Somebody's back and it's the President of the United States, OK?" said the President at the time.
Mr Trump appeared in part as a critic of the widespread U.S. military presence in the Middle East, but often stuck to many of its most controversial features, including belligerent drones, the expansive use of secret special forces forces, and the alleged use of torture at the infamous Guantánamo Bay military detention center.
The president has issued a number of pardons to allies in his final days in office, including many of those involved in the Mueller investigation such as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn as well as George Papadopoulos, who is a foreign policy advisor to Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign and who plead guilty of having made false statements to federal officials.
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