OTTAWA – A Congolese man arrested this week after his face was seen on an online government “wanted” list had been deemed by immigration officials to be a member of the brutal security forces of his home country’s former regimes.
Members of the Congolese community in Montreal and family members of Abraham Bahaty Bayavuge have said he was only a low-level employee in the government of dictator Laurent-Desire Kabila.
But the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) dismissed Bayavuge’s application for refugee status in 2004, saying it found he was a member of Kabila’s security forces and those of the previous Mobuto regime.
A removal order was eventually issued against him, and Bayavuge lost an appeal of that decision in 2006 in Federal Court when he failed to produce any evidence of the risks he would face should he return to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Then he disappeared. On Wednesday, Canadian Border Services agents tracked him down in Ottawa.
Bayavuge is the fifth alleged war criminal to be caught following the Conservative government’s posting of 30 faces on the Canadian Border Services Agency’s website.
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“I think this reassures new Canadians as well as all Canadians that we take the issue of citizenship and the appropriateness of behaviour on an international level very seriously,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on Thursday in announcing Bayavuge’s arrest.
But what happens to the alleged war criminals once they are deported had not been assessed by the government.
Amnesty International had criticized the government for not taking action on its own to prosecute alleged war criminals. Although Canada has Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, only two people have ever been tried under the legislation.
“Our obligation is to enforce Canada’s laws and protect the security of Canadians. Other countries have laws to deal with crimes that have been committed in their jurisdictions,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Thursday.
“We would expect that any responsible sovereign state will do its utmost to ensure there are sanctions for those who are culpable of crimes against humanity or crimes of this nature….”
Details on exactly what the men on the list are alleged to have done are difficult to come by.
Besides Bayavuge, only two other men on the list have fought their cases in Federal Court, which publishes its decisions. Records of other processes through the IRB are kept confidential.
Frank Kobena Berko, who has yet to be found, came to Canada from Ghana in 1992. Subsequently, the IRB rejected his refugee application saying he had been the president of the Committee in Defence of the Revolution (CDR) for seven years, a group that participated in crimes against humanity.
Berko had argued that he himself had been beaten on two occasions, one incident leading him to flee Ghana, by the same group he presided over. But the commissioners pointed out that he never left his post despite the activities the organization was engaged in. They also rejected the claim that he might be persecuted in Ghana, which has seen improvements in its democratic institutions. The Federal Court rejected his request for a review in 1997.