Canada Denies Refugee Status to American

#1
Canada Denies Refugee Status to American



March 24, 2005 5:12 PM EST

TORONTO - A U.S. Army paratrooper was denied political asylum Thursday, dealing a blow to Americans who are seeking refuge in Canada to avoid serving in an Iraq conflict that they argue would force them to commit atrocities against civilians.

An immigration board ruled that Jeremy Hinzman had not convinced its members he would face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment if returned to the United States.

Seven other American military personnel have applied for refugee status, and Hinzman's lawyer estimated dozens of others are in hiding in Canada waiting to see how the government ruled. The attorney, Jeffrey House, said Hinzman would appeal the ruling and expected to win.

"He is disappointed," House told CBC TV. "We don't believe that people should be imprisoned for doing what they believe is illegal."

Immigration and Refugee Board member Brian Goodman, who wrote the ruling, said Hinzman might face some employment and social discrimination. But "the treatment does not amount to a violation of a fundamental human right, and the harm is not serious," he wrote.

Canada opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the decision could help ease strained relations between the two governments.

Hinzman could face charges of desertion if sent home and would face up to five years in prison. He and seven other U.S. military deserters are being represented by House, a Wisconsin native who came to Canada in 1970 to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon has urged the deserters to return to the United States and take up their concerns at their respective military bases.

"We are an Army serving a nation at war," the Army said in a statement after Thursday's ruling. "Each of us volunteered to serve, and the vast majority serve honorably. AWOL and desertion are crimes that go against Army values, degrade unit readiness and, in a time of war, may put the lives of other soldiers at risk."

Hinzman, 26, lives with his wife and young son in Toronto, where Quakers and the War Resisters coalition of anti-war groups have taken on his cause and provided some shelter. Coalition supporters planned to demonstrate Thursday in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto.

He fled from Fort Bragg, N.C., in January 2004, weeks before his 82nd Airborne Division was due to go to Iraq. He had served three years in the Army, but had applied for conscientious objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in 2002.

Hinzman argued to the Immigration and Refugee Board in December that he would have had to take part in war crimes if he went to Iraq, saying the war there is illegal. He said he would be persecuted if forced to return to the United States.

Hinzman also testified he had been willing to fulfill his full four-year obligation to the Army, but not to participate in combat.

"I find Mr. Hinzman's position to be inherently contradictory," Goodman said in the ruling. "Surely an intelligent young man like Mr. Hinzman, who believes the war in Iraq to be illegal, unjust and waged for economic reasons, would be unwilling to participate in any capacity, whether as combatant or noncombatant."

Hinzman's lawyer estimated as many as 100 American war resisters are hiding in Canada, waiting to see how Hinzman's case is played out before coming forward. He said 30,000 to 50,000 Americans fled to Canada during the Vietnam War and were allowed to settle here, but Hinzman would have become the first American soldier to be granted political asylum in Canada.

During the Vietnam era, young American men could be drafted into military service, but now enlistment in U.S. military is voluntary. The military attracts many young recruits with job skills training and programs that help pay for university.

Pfc. Joshua Key, 26, of Oklahoma City is the latest war resister to flee to Toronto, arriving two weeks ago with his wife and four children. He told the Toronto Star he served in Iraq with the 43rd Combat Engineering Company, which was deployed in April 2003.

Key said he served eight months in Iraq before he left the military when he was on leave at the 43rd's base in Fort Carson, Colo., in December 2003.

"I was in combat the entire time I was there," said Key. "I left for Iraq with a purpose, thinking this was another Hitler deal. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. They had no military whatsoever. And I started to wonder."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


"We don't believe that people should be imprisoned for doing what they believe is illegal."
What?


Hinzman also testified he had been willing to fulfill his full four-year obligation to the Army, but not to participate in combat.

What did he join for, and why did he become a paratrooper?



"I left for Iraq with a purpose, thinking this was another Hitler deal. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. They had no military whatsoever. And I started to wonder."
Mass murders/mass graves are not a "Hitler deal" ?
 
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