In many host nations, especially those with a large foreign military 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, a U.S. military AVLB bridge-laying vehicle on the way to the base camp after a training exercise accidentally killed two girls. Under the SOFA, a United States military court martial tried the soldiers involved. The panel found the act to be an accident and acquitted the service members of negligent homicide, citing no criminal intent or negligence. The U.S. military accepted responsibility for the incident and paid civil damages. This resulted in widespread outrage in South Korea, demands that the soldiers be retried in a South Korean court, the airing of a wide variety of conspiracy theories, and a backlash against the local expatriate community.[6]


What country has the most favorable status of forces agreement with the United States? I was reading this, but it didn't provide the particularities of each nation and it didn't say which country had the most favorable status of forces agreement with the United States. By favorable, I mean that favors the host country and gives as much power over to the host country when a servicemember from the United States commits any crime in the host country.

  • 4
    Impossible to answer, because different agreements have different strengths and weaknesses. How would you rate a relatively 'generous' SOFA where the US reciprocates and gives the same rights to foreign troops in the US, for instance?
    – o.m.
    Aug 25 at 12:50
  • 3
    As of 2011, American military authorities were allowing South Korea to charge and prosecute American soldiers in South Korean courts. - So it appears that SK managed to negotiate a better deal than Japan where US still insists all trials should be by the military.
    – sfxedit
    Aug 25 at 13:17
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    Voting not to close - This is a good question that can be factually answered when you consider that OP has defined what they mean by favourable terms - gives as much power over to the host country when a servicemember from the United States commits any crime in the host country. In other words, if the host country's investigative and judicial system has full jurisdiction over US personnels in the host country, the host country has negotiated a better deal.
    – sfxedit
    Aug 25 at 13:41
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    The OP could maybe make it clearer, but it seems to be a question about treatment of US forces who commit crimes, rather than a very vague "which is best overall" question. It should at least be possible to divide countries into different categories. Although there's a complicating factor in that just because something is allowed by treaty doesn't necessarily mean it happens, and a country may be reluctant to bring prosecutions even if the treaty allows it.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 25 at 14:47
  • 1
    @JoeW "I don't think that jurisdiction over US personal is the only factor to consider in which is a better deal or not": but it is the only factor that is being asked about in this question. If you prefer, substitute the word "crepuscular" for "favorable."
    – phoog
    Aug 26 at 6:34

1 Answer 1


According to one commentator, the [1951] NATO SOFA (which the US part of) is probably it overall. Just checking what it says about crimes seems to fit too:

Article VII 1. b. the authorities of the receiving State shall have jurisdiction over the members of a force or civilian component and their dependents with respect to offences committed within the territory of the receiving State and punishable by the law of that State.

However the US rarely deploys troops in sizeable numbers to a NATO country without some additional agreements, so this answer may not be entirely satisfactory as it's not about a bilateral (but rather multilateral) agreement.

Also, even that article VII is rather long, and if one peruses it, other paragraphs add exceptions to 1. b., e.g.

  1. In case where the right to exercise jurisdiction is concurrent the following rules shall apply:

a. The military authorities of the sending State shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over a member of a force or of a civilian component in relation to

i. offences solely against the property or security of that State, or offences solely against the person or property of another member of the force or civilian component of that State or of a dependent;

ii. offences arising out of any act or omission done in the performance of official duty.

FWTW, a somewhat obscure point is that the NATO SOFA nowadays covers al PfP (Partnership of Peace) countries [by the latter agreements], not just the core NATO members.

  • 1
    Under the NATO SOFA, there were cases where an American servicemember was not surrendered to the US because the US had the death penalty on that case. Is that weakening the US position, because US prosecutors have less power, or strengthening the US position, because US citizens get extra rights?
    – o.m.
    Aug 26 at 6:31
  • 1
    On another note, the US-Iraq SOFA did read quite similar on the surface to the NATO SOFA, except that Iraqi jurisdiction over US servicemembers was to apply for an enumerated list of crimes only, to be listed by a joint committee. Just how much that would weaken the Iraqi position depends on the deliberations of that committee, which I did not try to find.
    – o.m.
    Aug 26 at 6:33
  • @o.m. how is any position "strong" or "weak" in this regard?
    – phoog
    Aug 26 at 6:40
  • @phoog, the OP wanted some sort of ranking of 'favorableness.' I believe asking for that is asking to compare apples and oranges.
    – o.m.
    Aug 26 at 7:51
  • @o.m. but favorableness is very narrowly defined for the purpose of the question. And I don't understand how it relates to "strength" whether under this definition or a broader one. All the question asks for is the relative scope of criminal jurisdiction over someone who is subject to the SOFA in question. As I mentioned in another comment, given the precise definition of "favorable," you could substitute any irrelevant adjective without changing the meaning of the question. Perhaps it would be better to make one up. Try "bivular."
    – phoog
    Aug 26 at 9:13

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