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Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Trump's pardon of four former Blackwater contractors convicted in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of Iraqi civilians violated international law, United Nations experts said on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Geneva Conventions require countries to "hold war criminals accountable, even when they act as private security contractors," per UN. By pardoning the four men, Trump directly contradicted and violated these obligations, according to the experts.

Flashback: "Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter, over the incident in which U.S. contractors opened fire in busy traffic in a Baghdad square and killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians," Reuters writes.

What they're saying: "Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families," said Jelena Aparac, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

  • "Ensuring accountability for such crimes is fundamental to humanity and to the community of nations ... Pardons, amnesties, or any other forms of exculpation for war crimes open doors to future abuses when States contract private military and security companies for inherent state functions."

The big picture: Trump pardoned the contractors last week along with a number of Republicans and Trump loyalists — including longtime associate Roger Stone, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Charles Kushner, the father of senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump revokes ethics order barring former aides from lobbying

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty

Shortly after pardoning members of Congress and lobbyists convicted on corruption charges, President Trump revoked an executive order barring former officials from lobbying for five years after leaving his administration.

Why it matters: The order, which was signed eight days after he took office, was an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to "drain the swamp."

  • But with less than 12 hours left in office, Trump has now removed those limitations on his own aides.
Updated 11 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."