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UN Says Trump Violated International Law With Pardons for Blackwater War Criminals

The four Blackwater guards were convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and injuring 20.

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A United Nations panel has strongly denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s pardons for several former Blackwater mercenaries and convicted war criminals that were found guilty of massacring over a dozen civilians in Baghdad.

The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries released a statement Wednesday condemning the White House decision to pardon the four killers as an offense to basic justice and insult to the memory of over a dozen people killed in the 2007 massacre, reports Reuters. The panel also sharply condemned the move as a violation of U.S. obligations to international law.

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said panel  chair Jelena Aparac.

“These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” she added.

The four men, all of whom were American, were involved in the indiscriminate killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, when the mercenaries opened fire during busy traffic at the Baghdad square. Twenty additional civilians were injured. Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder while Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough were each convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.

The four men were employed by the private security firm Blackwater which was owned by security contractor Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Prince has reportedly served as an informal adviser to the White House while also helping to orchestrate spying efforts to infiltrate campaigns by political and labor groups considered hostile to Trump, the New York Times reported earlier this year.

The four mercenaries were included in a wave of controversial pre-Christmas pardons announced by the Trump administration that critics derided as corrupt and immoral.

“While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, rots in Britain’s Guantanamo,” tweeted Greek economist and parliamentarian Yanis Varoufakis.

The pardons for the former Blackwater mercenaries, in particular, were sharply criticized by Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the two top American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq at the time of the 2007 massacre, who called the move “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity” in a joint statement.

The U.N. working group’s chair also said that the pardons send the signal that private security contractors would essentially give them the green light to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts” as states increasingly rely on the firms to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law.

In recent years, military contractors have increasingly been deployed in sensitive conflict zones by companies from the U.S., U.K., Russia, South Africa and other countries.

Blackwater, which has since been renamed as Academi, earned worldwide notoriety for the 2007 massacre, after which the company was stripped of its license to operate in Iraq by the country’s government.

Documents released by WikiLeaks have also highlighted major human rights abuses, including the murder of civilians, by private security services such as Blackwater throughout the Iraq War.

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Corruption

Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars

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A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.

Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.

Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.

In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.

Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”

Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.

“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.

“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”

Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.

When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”

“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”

Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.

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Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month

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A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.

The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.

It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.

The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.

Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.

Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.

“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.

“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”

The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.

Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.

Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.

Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

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2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found

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An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.

The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.

Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.

“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”

Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”

Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.

At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”

While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.

The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.

Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.

 Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.

About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”

Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.

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