It was an honor to represent these victims and their families. I know that each of them placed great faith in the U.S. legal system. Each time the criminal charges were seemed lost, the U.S. Department of Justice told them they were not forgotten — that we would continue to pursue the convictions of those who committed the crimes against them.

It was not an easy path in either the civil or criminal legal system. Blackwater and its employees had been given immunity from any criminal or civil exposure in Iraq — that was part of Prince’s contract with the State Department. The only way these men could be brought to justice was in the United States. When the first indictments were dismissed on New Year’s Eve in 2009, they were told that the prosecutions would continue. Then-Vice President Joe Biden held a press conference to tell the citizens of Iraq that they would not be abandoned. Each step of the way, the U.S. legal system ensured that these men were given fair and just prosecutions. When Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten was tried and convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, the U.S. legal system determined that he needed a new trial.

The result of the long legal battle is that each man was ensured a fair trial, free of partiality and without unjust favor. Likewise, the civil case ran through North Carolina state court, was removed to federal court, and then sent back to state court. During the litigation, an appeal was ongoing in the 4h Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Again, the result was the civil legal system exhausting every defense afforded to Blackwater and the men.

Our civil case resulted in a resolution that was acceptable to the parties. The convictions made the victims feel that justice had been obtained. The U.S. legal system, a pillar of fairness in the world, had worked. That changed yesterday with President Donald Trump’s pardons.

I commented when the convictions were first brought that I was certain my clients who were still residents of Iraq were pleased to know that justice had been served. When Slatten’s conviction was overturned, I was concerned that the case would be ignored. It wasn’t. He was ensured a fair trial and convicted for his crimes. Again, I knew my clients would be pleased to know that justice had been served and their rights had been protected. That’s what lawyers do in the United States: We fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I felt I had done that, and I knew the prosecutors were doing that.

The Nisour Square massacre was the FBI’s most comprehensive and expensive criminal investigation since 9/11. Dozens of witnesses were brought to the United States to testify about what happened on September 16, 2007. The efforts of the investigators, the prosecutors, and the men and women who supported them was immeasurable. The expense was to show the people of Iraq that the U.S. government would hold people accountable for their crimes, no matter when or where they were committed.

It is unfortunate and sad that those efforts have now been wasted. These men will now be free, despite their crimes, and they will not serve the time in prison they deserved. My clients assuredly feel ignored, mistreated, and used. Their belief in our legal system was misplaced. The result is not just that we see an injustice in the United States, but that the world must surely see cracks in the pillars of justice upon which our system is based. That may be the overriding damage caused by these pardons.