U.S. Troops to Apply for Search Warrants; Status-of-Forces Agreement Might Include Use of Courts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 21, 2008 | Go to article overview

U.S. Troops to Apply for Search Warrants; Status-of-Forces Agreement Might Include Use of Courts


Byline: Richard Tomkins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Some U.S. troops in Iraq could begin applying for warrants before detaining terrorist suspects or searching Iraqi homes as soon as Dec. 1 - a month before they might become required to do so under a new status-of-forces agreement.

Military sources, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic, said at least some units of the 4th Infantry Division in Baghdad would begin obtaining warrants from Iraqi legal authorities next month before making arrests or searching homes for weapons caches and other contraband in noncombat situations.

U.S. military officials would not confirm or deny the report.

According to the sources, discussions have been held between some U.S. military officials and their Iraqi counterparts on procedures the soldiers will have to follow to get the warrants. Thus far, no guidelines have been issued, the sources said.

I really don't know how it is going to work out, said Maj. Geoff Greene, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, which operates in east Baghdad. I don't know how to get them yet, he said of the warrants, adding that he expects to receive guidance soon.

The need for warrants is stipulated in the status-of-forces agreement signed this week in Baghdad by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The accord, which has yet to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, would provide a three-year legal framework for a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. It is to go into effect Jan. 1, when a United Nations Security Council mandate presence expires.

Warrants are a key provision of the agreement. Currently, U.S. troops do not need Iraqi permission to search homes or detain Iraqis. Under the agreement, they would still not need warrants if they are in the midst of a battle.

The Iraqi Cabinet approved the accord earlier this week after eight months of negotiations and last-minute wrangling over Iraqi demands for amendments, including a provision that would preclude U.S. combat forces from staying in Iraq beyond Dec. 31, 2011.

Iraq's fractious parliament has yet to approve the measure, but a vote could come as early as Monday. At least three blocs in the parliament are opposed to the accord. Among them is one composed of lawmakers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is thought to be in Iran.

U.S. diplomats say passage of the agreement would mark the start of new talks between the two governments and military officials over implementation. …

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