Warnings over Trump's plans to pardon war crimes suspects

23 May 2019, 08:51 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 11:42

Donald Trump's plans to pardon several US military members accused or convicted of war crimes have been met with disbelief and anger.

Earlier this week the US president asked for files to be prepared on pardoning the former troops, including one who faces charges of shooting unarmed civilians in Iraq.

The timing indicates he could be intending to pardon the men on Memorial Day in the US (27 May), two sources told the New York Times.

One of those officials said that processing a pardon usually takes months but the Justice Department had asked for these ones to be finished before the holiday weekend.

Among those who have criticised the move was Army General Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He wrote on Twitter: "Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US service members accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don't take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously.

"Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us."

Retired General Charles Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, told the LA Times: "If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons of individuals accused - or convicted by their fellow service members - of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States' moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield."

Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman who served in the US Air Force's Judge Advocate General's Corps for four years, said: "No one ever said hey, I support war crimes like murdering an unarmed girl and murdering unarmed captives.

"Until Donald Trump came along. And military leaders are now rebelling at that insanity."

One of the requests for pardon reportedly relates to Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is due to stand trial in the coming weeks.

Gallagher is accused of killing a wounded Islamic State prisoner under his care in Iraq in 2017 and shooting indiscriminately at civilians. He denies all charges.

Also believed to be included is Mathew Golsteyn, a former Army Green Beret (special forces) who faces a murder charge after being accused of killing an unarmed Afghan who he believed was a Taliban bomb-maker in Afghanistan in 2010.

He also denies doing anything wrong, saying he acted under the laws of armed conflict.

Eric Carpenter, a former Army prosecutor, told US military newspaper Stars and Stripes that pardoning the men would be a "terrible decision".

He added: "He plays into our enemies' narrative, which is that we don't care about Muslim lives."