Dec 5, 2008

Would you buy this SOFA? Should the Iraqi people?

Next year, thanks to Iraq President Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi’s will get to actually vote on the Status of Forces Agreement that was ratified by their government and finally their Presidential Council Thursday. All our troops must be out of Iraq by 2011.The Iraqi’s will supposedly vote on the agreement next year.

I say supposed to vote because we are now propping up one of the most corrupt regimes in the world, right behind Myanmar and Somalia, according to Transparency International. The irony is thick indeed, isn’t it? We took out Saddam and put in an entire government of Saddam’s.

The Iraqi’s could vote to reject the agreement. What that would mean is unclear at this point. Whether a vote will actually happen is the larger question. One thing is clear, the violence still continues with bombings this week that killed and injured scores of Iraqi’s. Two American Soldiers will also be coming home in boxes.

In addition to the official deadlines for troop withdraw, it gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel and eliminates immunity for US defense contractors working within Iraq. What does this mean for Americans? From a Jurist OpEd on the subject:

Earlier this week the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a report that is highly critical of the absence of due process in Iraq’s criminal justice system. The UN Report notes that “many detainees have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years, often under precarious physical conditions, without access to defence counsel, or without being formally charged with a crime or produced before a judge. Continuing allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of inmates are of particular concern.” The report is particularly timely, given that as of January 1, 2009, U.S. citizens who are contractors in Iraq will be subject to the jurisdiction of Iraqi criminal and civil courts, according to the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement signed on November 17, 2009.

Nothing in this newly-signed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq guarantees that a U.S. citizen contractor arrested in Iraq will get even the most basic due process protections. The SOFA doesn’t even permit the U.S. Government to detain U.S. citizen contractors who are awaiting trial in Iraqi courts. The SOFA requires that U.S. soldiers and government employees arrested by the Iraqi police will be handed over to U.S. authorities within 24 hours of detention or arrest. However, if the detained American citizen is a contractor, he or she is left entirely to the disposition of the Iraqi system, and will be left to sit in the Iraqi jail awaiting Iraqi justice.

In other words contractors, like the employees of Blackwater, will be treated similar to our prisoners in Guantanamo, perhaps even worse. Irony, thy name is SOFA…

Crossposted at UnCapitalist Journal.

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