US president Donald Trump has indicated that he may be preparing presidential pardons for US soldiers convicted of war crimes, including murder, attempted murder and corpse desecration, according to a New York Times report.
The Trump administration has issued requests for the paperwork required for the pardons on on around Memorial Day (a US federal holiday on 27 May to honour the soldiers who have died in service), the report said.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs — who is charged with shooting unarmed civilians and stabbing a captive enemy to death while deployed in Iraq — is reportedly one of the soldiers for whom a request was made.
A former Blackwater (now Academi, a US private military firm) employee accused of shooting unarmed civilians in Iraq, Major Mathew L Golsteyna accused of killing an unarmed Afghan, and Marine Corps snipers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban militants are also among those who may be pardoned, officials told NYT.
The requests for the pardon files were sent on Friday from the White House to the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney which forwarded the request to the military branches. These files typically contain the details on criminal charges, background information about the accused and what they have done to make amends.
According to an official, the pardoning process usually takes months, but the Justice Department needs the files before Memorial Day without fail. The Department and the White House has not commented on the matter.
Some are worried about the erosion of the legitimacy of military law and have negative effects on discipline and order within the ranks.
“These are all extremely complicated cases that have gone through a careful system of consideration. A freewheeling pardon undermines that whole system,” said Gary Solis, a retired military judge told NYT.
(With inputs from The New York Times.)
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