In many host nations, especially those with a large foreign presence such as South Korea and Japan, the SOFA can become a major political issue following crimes allegedly committed by servicemembers. This is especially true when the incidents involve crimes, such as robbery, murder, manslaughter or sex crimes, especially when the charge is defined differently in the two nations. For example, in 2002 in South Korea, two girls were accidentally killed by a U.S. military AVLB bridge laying vehicle on the way to the base camp after a training exercise, and the soldiers involved were tried under U.S. criminal jurisdiction. The court martial panel found the act to be an accident and acquitted the service members, citing no criminal intent or negligence. The U.S. military accepted responsibility for the incident and paid civil damages. A U.S. military court-martial acquitted U.S. soldier who drove the vehicle on negligent homicide charges. This resulted in widespread outrage in Korea, demands that the soldiers be retried in a Korean court, the airing of a wide variety of conspiracy theories and a backlash against the local expatriate community.
However, most crimes by servicemembers against local civilians occur off duty, and in accordance with the local SOFA are considered subject to local jurisdiction. Details of the SOFAs can still prompt issues. In Japan, for example, the U.S. SOFA includes the provision that servicemembers are not turned over to the local authorities until they are charged in a court. In a number of cases, local officials have complained that this impedes their ability to question suspects and investigate the crime. American officials allege that the Japanese police use coercive interrogation tactics and are concerned more with attaining a high conviction rate than finding "justice". American authorities also note the difference in police investigation powers, as well as the judiciary. No lawyer can be present in investigation discussions in Japan, though a translator is provided, and no mention made of an equivalent to America's Miranda rights. As of 2008, jury trials do not yet exist in Japan (but are scheduled to startin 2009), so current trials are all bench or multiple judge trials. For these reasons American authorities insist that servicemembers be tried in military tribunals.
To many U.S. observers, the fact that most accused criminals eventually end up being tried in a local court and found guilty proves that the system is working; to some host country observers, it reinforces the perception that the SOFA protects the guilty and makes the exceptions more glaring.
In an interview January 24, 2008, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated that work on a SOFA had barely been started.
On June 13, 2008, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that negotiations with the United States on a long-term security pact were deadlocked because of concern the deal infringes Iraqi sovereignty. "We have reached an impasse because when we opened these negotiations we did not realize that the US demands would so deeply affect Iraqi sovereignty and this is something we can never accept," he said in Amman, Jordan. "We cannot allow US forces to have the right to jail Iraqis or assume, alone, the responsibility of fighting against terrorism," Maliki told Jordanian newspaper editors, according to a journalist present at the meeting. However, on June 15, 2008, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that US-Iraqi negotiations for a long-term security pact were not dead and that despite difficulties, a deal would be signed "by the end of July. . . these talks are ongoing. They're not dead," Zebari said of negotiations to decide the future of the US military presence in Iraq after the current UN mandate expires in December 2008.
On July 1, 2008, Zebari said he briefed members of the Iraqi Parliament that US contractors would no longer have immunity from Iraqi prosecution under negotiated terms of the long-term security pact. US State Department officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but Iraqi member of parliament Mahmoud Othman said he attended the meeting and that Iraqi representatives were very pleased with the immunity agreement.
On July 8, 2008, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani rejected the proposed agreement on the basis that it violates Iraqi sovereignty, following a meeting with Iraq National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie. Rubaie, clarifying remarks by Maliki on July 7 that Iraq would accept a memorandum of understanding in lieu of a SOFA, stated "We will not accept any memorandum of understanding if it does not give a specific date for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops. Deputy speaker Khaled al-Attiyah also said on July 8 that the Iraqi parliament would insist on vetting any agreement with the U.S. and would likely veto the agreement if American troops were immune from Iraqi law: "Without doubt, if the two sides reach an agreement, this is between two countries, and according to the Iraqi constitution a national agreement must be agreed by parliament by a majority of two thirds.
REP. PASCRELL'S STATEMENT IN REACTION TO THE REPORTED FAILURE OF THE SUPER COMMITTEE TO REACH AN AGREEMENT ON REDUCING THE NATIONAL DEFICIT.
Nov 21, 2011; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the office of New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell: U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr....