UN Human Rights office: Trump military pardons are 'disturbing signal'
UN Human Rights Office says Donald Trump’s war crimes pardons send ‘disturbing signal to military forces all around the world’ after president insists soldiers ‘should be allowed to fight’
- Trump tweeted on Sunday that his recent military pardons were justified
- He pardoned three service members accused of war crimes on Friday
- Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, 34, walked free from Leavenworth Prison
- Lorance was convicted of ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men
- Murder charges were dropped against Army Major Mathew L. Golsteyn
- Trump also reversed the demotion of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher
- UN Human Rights Office warns that the pardons send a signal to other armies that war crimes can easily be wiped away
The UN on Tuesday harshly criticised President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon three US service members accused of war crimes as a ‘disturbing signal’ to military forces worldwide.
‘These three cases involve serious violations of international humanitarian law, both proven and alleged, including the shooting of a group of civilians and execution of a captured member of an armed group,’ UN Human Rights Office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters.
Trump on Friday pardoned a former soldier convicted of murder and a Green Beret charged with killing a suspected Taliban bomb-maker, defying warnings that it would be an abuse of the powers afforded him under the US Constitution.
Trump dismissed a second degree murder conviction against Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who is six years into a 19-year term for ordering soldiers in 2012 to fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom died.
He granted clemency to West Point graduate Matt Golsteyn, an ex-member of the elite US Army Green Berets, charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of an alleged Taliban bomb-maker in 2010.
Trump issued pardons on Friday for (left to right) Army Green Beret Major Mathew J. Golsteyn, former Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher
The president also reversed the demotion of Edward Gallagher, a 15-year Navy Seal accused of stabbing to death a wounded teenage Islamic State prisoner in Iraq, and of other killings of civilians.
Gallagher was cleared of the most serious charges in July but was convicted of posing with the slain fighter’s body in a group picture with other SEALs.
Colville issuing pardons to people suspected of committing war crimes was ‘very troubling’.
‘I don’t believe there have been pardons of this type in the United States since the Vietnam war,’ he said.
He pointed out that under international humanitarian law, there is an ‘obligation to investigate violations and prosecute war crimes.’
Colville said the U.S. military justice system had been complying those obligations, but the pardons ‘run against the letter and the spirit of international law which requires accountability.’
‘While pardons exist in international law, and can properly address issues of injustice or unfairness, in the present cases no circumstances have been advanced to suggest anything other than simply voiding the otherwise proper process of law in the cases,’ he said.
‘These pardons send a disturbing signal to military forces all around the world,’ he warned.
Trump defended his pardons on Sunday, saying he would not have exercised executive pardons for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl or leaker Chelsea Manning.
Trump said that he would not have exercised executive pardons for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl (left) or leaker Chelsea Manning (right)
‘Our great warfighters must be allowed to fight. I would not have done this for Sgt. Bergdahl or Chelsea Manning!’ Trump said in a tweet.
Bergdahl was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged in a 2017 court-martial for desertion of duty in Afghanistan, after unsuccessfully lobbying former President Barack Obama for a pardon.
In his final days in office, Obama used executive clemency to commute the prison sentence of Manning, an Army soldier who was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 35 years in prison for sharing classified military documents with WikiLeaks.
Trump’s remarks on Twitter were in response to a tweet from Fox News host Pete Hegeseth, who reportedly privately lobbied the president for pardons in three high-profile war crimes cases.
On Friday, Trump issued the pardons for Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher.
On Friday night, Lorance, 34, embraced his beaming family members as he walked out of Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in full dress uniform , hours after his pardon.
Lorance was convicted of second-degree murder for ordering soldiers under his command to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men on motorcycles, including two who died, in 2012. He and his supporters maintain that they were enemy combatants.
He had served more than six years of a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, 34, embraced his beaming family members as he walked out of Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in full dress uniform on Friday night
Video shows the moment that Lorance stepped out of an SUV that transported him from the notorious maximum-security military prison, as his family members screamed with joy
Lorrance embraces his sister as he walked free after six years behind bars at Leavenworth
Video shows the moment that Lorance stepped out of an SUV that transported him from the notorious maximum-security military prison, as his family members screamed with joy, hugged him and wiped away tears.
‘It feels great,’ Lorance said. ‘I want to say thank you President Trump. And I’d like to ask the rest of the country to help me do that too, to tell President Trump thank you.’
As his sister, nieces and other family struggled to compose themselves, Lorance asked: ‘I hear y’all have some pizza around here somewhere?’
‘We do have pizza!’ a female family members replied, as they all burst into laughter.
Lorance then entered the hotel where a reception had been set up to greet him, and delivered brief remarks, saying that he had spoken on the phone with Trump just prior to his release.
‘He sounds just like he sounds on TV, on the phone. He’s actually pretty funny too when you talk to him on the phone,’ Lorance said.
Lorance was greeted by retired Lt. Col. David ‘Bull’ Gurfein, the CEO of United American Patriots, a group that lobbied for his pardon and release
‘I just wanted to join the Army, and go be a soldier. I didn’t realize all this was gonna happen, it’s kind of overwhelming for a country boy from the middle of nowhere,’ Lorance said
Lorance thanked all of his supporters, who had corresponded with him behind bars and petitioned for his release.
‘I just wanted to join the Army, and go be a soldier. I didn’t realize all this was gonna happen, it’s kind of overwhelming for a country boy from the middle of nowhere,’ he said.
On Saturday morning, Lorance changed his Facebook cover photo to a banner supporting Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.
Lorance, an 82nd Airborne Division lieutenant, was sentenced to 19 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the army after prosecutors said he recklessly ordered his men to open fire on the Afghan men in July 2012.
The trio on motorcycles had approached his patrol in southern Afghanistan.
Prosecutors said this was in violation of the military’s rules of engagement, which requires soldiers to hold fire unless they have evidence of hostile action or hostile intent.
Two of the men were killed and the third ran away.
Lorance is seen with his parents early in his military career. He maintains that the Afghans he ordered his unit to fire at were Taliban combatants
Lorance is seen left and right in photos from early in his military career
Lorance was one of three armed service members pardoned by Trump on Friday.
One of the pardons went to Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, a former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected bomb-maker during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. Golsteyn was leading a team of Army Special Forces at the time and believed that the man was responsible for an explosion that killed two U.S. Marines.
He has argued that the Afghan was a legal target because of his behavior at the time of the shooting.
Trump also ordered a promotion for Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was in line for a promotion before he was prosecuted, but he lost that and was reduced in rank after the conviction.
Last month Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. chief of naval operations, denied a request for clemency for Gallagher and upheld a military jury’s sentence that reduced his rank by one step. One of Gallagher´s lawyers, Timothy Parlatore, said then that ruling would cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds because of his loss of rank from a chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer.
Gallagher ultimately was acquitted of the most serious charges against him. Grisham said the reinstatement of the promotion was ‘justified,’ given Gallagher´s service.
Trump reversed the demotion of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher (pictured with his family from a social media post made Friday). The Navy SEAL was acquitted of murder, but convicted on a lesser charge in a war crimes case this summer
Major Mathew Golsteyn (pictured), an Army Special Forces officer who had been accused of killing a suspected bomb-maker, said he had believed the man was responsible for setting off an explosion that killed two US Marines
‘There are no words to adequately express how grateful my family and I are to our President – Donald J. Trump – for his intervention and decision,’ Gallagher said in a statement on Instagram. ‘I truly believe that we are blessed as a nation to have a Commander-in-Chief that stands up for our warfighters, and cares about how they and their families are treated.’
Parlatore said Friday that his client had received a telephone call from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence informing him of the news.
Golsteyn´s trial by court-martial initially had been scheduled for December but was postponed until Feb. 19 to give attorneys more time to prepare.
In a statement Friday, Golsteyn said his family is ‘profoundly grateful’ for Trump´s pardon.
‘We have lived in constant fear of this runaway prosecution. Thanks to President Trump, we now have a chance to rebuild our family and lives. With time, I hope to regain my immense pride in having served in our military,’ Golsteyn said.
His defense attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, said he was ‘confident we would have prevailed in trial, but this action by the President expedited justice in this case.’
Trump ordered the release of Clint Lorance (pictured), a former army lieutenant who was convicted of murder for ordering soldiers under his command to open fire on three unarmed Afgan men, including two who died
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union´s National Security Project, said the actions amounted to an ‘utterly shameful use of presidential powers.’
‘Trump has sent a clear message of disrespect for law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war,’ Shamsi said in a statement.
Defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with Trump and provided him information on the cases.
Asked last week if he supported the exoneration of Gallagher, Golsteyn and Lorance, Esper told reporters that he had a ‘robust discussion’ with the president about the issue and offered his advice and recommendations. He declined to provide more details, but said, ‘I do have full confidence in the military justice system and we´ll let things play out as they play out.’
Trump, when the White House was considering intervening in Golsteyn’s case, commented at the time, ‘We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill’!
In explaining his decision to clear the three service members on Friday, the White House released a statement saying ‘The president, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted’.
‘For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country’, the statement explains.
‘These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, ‘when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight”.
Source: Read Full Article