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Amnesty for war criminals

US President Donald Trump recently issued a presidential pardon for four Black Water military contractors. In September 2007, while escorting a military convoy the contractor opened fire on civilians in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad. The firm stated that they were engaged by hostiles but the witness’ accounts fly in the face of these claims of the firms.

Nicholas Slatten, Paul Alvin Slough, Evan Shawn Liberty and Dustin Laurent Heard, the four Black Water associates were convicted after a long judicial process. Nicholas Slatten was sentenced to life in prison without parole; the other three members were charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter among others, and were required to serve up to 15 years of prison time.

The presidential pardon has been condemned by critics and human rights organisations in strong words. The director for Human Rights Watch in Washington stated that “this pardon is an insult to the justice system and to the victims…”.

It could be the last favor Trump would be able to give to his long-time supporter and friend, Erik Prince. This was not the first time Trump undermined his own judicial system and military command. Members of a US Seal Team, one of the world’s most elite operators, testified against their Master Chief Gallagher. He was accused of stabbing a young prisoner with a knife, shooting unarmed civilians, taking pictures with the corpse, and forcing his juniors to cover-up for him. Gallagher was charged with only one offense, but Trump came to his rescue and criticised the US Naval chief Richard Spencer for mishandling the situation, forcing him to resign. Gallagher was given impunity, later retired with full honor and benefits.

Similarly, Lt Clint Lorance from the US army and Major Mathew Golsteyn from US Army Special Forces were charged with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice among other charges. Mathew Golsteyn even confessed to his crime in a CIA job application and publicly on Fox News but received a remission before his court-martial hearing.

The governmental cover-up of war crimes is not limited to the US. The British government launched Operation Northmoor in 2014 to investigate the killings of 52 civilians by their SAS members. It was suspected that members of the SAS committed war crimes during their time in Afghanistan. However, the government discontinued the operation even before the detectives could gather enough evidence – hence, nobody was prosecuted.

Recently, the Australian government confessed that some of their SAS members committed heinous war crimes during their posting in Afghanistan. The Brereton report uncovered that some SAS members killed civilians and displayed extremely immoral behavior. According to a video shared by ABC News, a soldier can be seen pointing his gun at an unarmed civilian in the fields who had prayer beads in his hands before the soldier shot him multiple times in the face.

It was reported that a ritual called blooding was adopted where new recruits were forced to kill prisoners as their first kill. Some soldiers drank beer in the prosthetic legs from dead bodies. Although such members have been identified and issued legal notices, some are demanding that their commanding officers should also be prosecuted along with these soldiers.

The act of issuing a pardon to a person who killed innocent civilians and was convicted by the court means issuing a license-to-kill to murderers and war criminals. It gives a message that they can do whatever they want and, in the end, they will find someone in high places who will present them with amnesties. Such imprudent actions on the part of Western governments will encourage war criminals. Instead of harvesting peace, these forces have sowed seeds of hatred among local people with their unjustified killing.

Such acts by demagogues like Trump fuel anger and hatred against foreign forces. After decades of bloodshed, both Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins with no peace in sight. These crimes were indeed committed by a handful of soldiers, but it is also true that when these soldiers were painting the walls with the blood of innocent men, women and children, they were oppressors much like the Taliban or ISIS.

Shah Fahad, "Amnesty for war criminals," The News. 2021-01-11.
Keywords: Political science , War crimes , Judicial system , Human rights , Nicholas Slatten , Paul Alvin Slough , Evan Shawn , Donald Trump , America , Iraq , Afghanistan