The US Departments of State and Defense have informed companies that provide the over 160,000 contractors employed in Iraq that the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), once it goes into effect, will strip them of the broad legal immunity for crimes that they now enjoy, and they will be subjected to the Iraqi legal system.
The pact is still under heated debate in the Iraqi Parliament, and if passed would go into effect January 1, when the current UN Mandate expires. Despite the commotion, Iraqi officials seem hopeful that the deal might still pass through parliament before the deadline.
The announcement was condemned by the International Peace Operations Association, the trade group that represents many of the Pentagon’s contractors, who complained that the SOFA “throws the DoD contractors under the bus.” The primary concern seems to be that the Iraqi prison system is “way below” global standards.
The Iraqi government has long made stripping contractors of their legal immunity a high priority, spurred on by high profile incidents of unprovoked killings, such as the September 2007 killing of 17 civilians by Blackwater employees.