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12/15/2004 Archived Entry: ""

[REPOST from 8 December 2004]

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board is hearing Jeremy Hinzman's case today. Hinzman is the AWOL American soldier who is seeking refugee status in Canada rather than serve in Iraq. He is a test case.

Hinzman's lawyer is making an interesting argument. "Canada has not granted refugee status to American citizens in the past, but Hinzman's supporters are counting on a precedent in international law to help the American. Gerry Cordon, a Hinzman supporter, says a soldier who refused to fight in Saddam Hussein's army in the invasion of Kuwait, successfully sought refugee status. To help his client, Hinzman's lawyer plans to present evidence of a systematic pattern of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, including attacks on civilian population centers, and the torture and murder of prisoners, at Monday's hearing." The new line of argument came after "the Crown...succeeded in having Hinzman's principal argument -- that the Iraq war was illegal -- ruled irrelevant." Three days have been set aside for the hearing, with a decision due in January. I expect the request to be denied but I also expect a lengthy appeal process...and that might be more successful.

Hinzman's prospects have been both harmed and helped by his status as a deserter rather than a draft dodger. There is not the same precedent in refugee law or public sympathy for deserters -- after all, they did volunteer for the service they are now fleeing. On the other hand, he could face a stiff prison sentence -- up to and including the death penalty -- if returned to the States and that punishment may be viewed as "persecution" -- in short, as a reason for asylum. For this reason, if for no other, the U.S. is likely to give Canada assurances that a lesser punishment will be inflicted.

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