Thursday, March 24, 2005

Canada Denies Refugee Status to American Deserter

ABC News - A U.S. Army paratrooper who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq was denied political asylum Thursday, dealing a blow to other deserters here who argue such duty 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, Jeffry House, said Hinzman would appeal the ruling.

"He is disappointed," House told CBC TV.

He said the Immigration and Refugee Board had not allowed him to argue that the war in Iraq is illegal and would make that complaint before a federal appeals court.

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 has long opposed American wars; former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared his homeland "a refuge from militarism" during the Vietnam War and allowed the 30,000 to 50,000 American draft dodgers to settle here. Ottawa also opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but is also seeking to ease badly 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.

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