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Iraq forces arrest US contractors for death of American

[JURIST] Five US contractors have been arrested by Iraqi officials for their alleged involvement in the May death of an American in Baghdad's Green Zone [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], according to Sunday reports. The suspects are not yet charged but may be the first Americans to face trial [Los Angeles Times report] in an Iraqi court since the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF] between the US and Iraq took effect in January. The agreement removed any immunity that private US contractors had under Iraqi law, allowing for the five accused to be tried. Jim Kitterman, an owner of a construction company, was found dead, bound, blindfolded, and stabbed in his car in late May. A US official anonymously disclosed [AP report] that the investigations involved possible charges other than murder. Kitterman's death is believed to be the first criminal killing of an American in the Green Zone since it was established in 2003.

In April, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] claimed that a US military raid in Iraq violated the SOFA [JURIST report] because notice of the military operation was not given to the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee (JMOCC). Al-Maliki said that he wanted to subject the US forces responsible for the raid to judicial proceedings. The agreement was signed [JURIST report] in December and took effect at the beginning of 2009 in anticipation of the expiration of the UN mandate [text] allowing US military presence in Iraq. In addition to eliminating immunity for US contractors and giving limited jurisdiction over military personnel, the agreement sets a 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of troops. A referendum is supposed to be held before the end of July to discuss the agreement.

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