President Donald Trump pardoned two US soldiers after being charged with war crimes in Afghanistan. He also reversed the demotion of a naval commander. According to critics, the president is thereby undermining military justice and thereby giving a signal that atrocities are tolerated.

“For over two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to give individuals who deserve a second chance. This also applies to soldiers who have served our country. These actions are in line with this long tradition, “says a White House statement.

In recent weeks there has been close contact between Pentagon and Trump employees about cases against the military, with the ministry representatives emphasizing the care with which the military system’s legal system functions. Yet the Pentagon spokesman supports Trump’s decision: “The president is part of the military justice system and has the authority to make decisions in these matters.” 

One of the suspect soldiers got the news about his grace through a phone call from President Trump himself, who spoke with him for several minutes, the soldier’s lawyer said. 

Critics, however, do not have a good word for the interference of the president. “Trump says that he does not care about the  law, morality, the legal system of the military apparatus and all soldiers who act according to the laws of war,” said Hina Shamsi, a director of the ACLU, an NGO defending civil rights in the US 

In May, Trump had already announced that he was considering granting pardons to soldiers accused of war crimes. The president already recognized the sensitivity of the issue at the time, but justified his plans because the military had been treated “unfairly.”