By Tamsin McMahon, National Post–March 29, 2011
A medical student who witnessed a Tutsi massacre at hospital in Rwanda was declared a war criminal and ordered deported from Canada by a Federal Court, which upheld a ruling that the fact he didn’t flee the hospital and wasn’t slaughtered himself was proof he was a genocide supporter.
In a ruling this month, the court found that Jean Leonard Teganya could be safely deported to Rwanda, confirming an Immigration and Refugee Board decision that refused his refugee claim on the grounds that he had committed crimes against humanity in his homeland.
Mr. Teganya, an ethnic Hutu, was an intern at Butare University Hospital in April, 1994, when militia killed nearly 200 Tutsi patients, staff and moderate Hutus. Accounts of the slaughter describe how nurses drew up lists of patients and staff to be killed, while doctors refused to treat Tutsi patients or evicted refugees seeking safe haven in the hospital into the waiting arms of militiamen.
Mr. Teganya, whose father was a regional leader in the Hutu-led governing Mouvement Révolutionaire National pour le Développement party, told the board he stayed in the hospital for more than two months after the massacre because he wanted to complete his internship.
Although the court found Mr. Teganya didn’t participate in the killings, it found that he was “complicit” in the crimes.
“Our Court never required … that a claimant be linked to specific crimes as the actual perpetrator or that the crimes against humanity committed by an organization be necessarily and directly attributable to specific acts or omissions of a claimant,” Justice Richard Boivin wrote in his decision.
Canada has one of the broadest definitions of “complicity” among the 147 signatories to the Geneva Convention, said Mr. Teganya’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman. “It has cast a very wide net, too wide,” he said. “War criminals are the worst of the worst. Crimes against humanity are the most despicable of all crimes. I think we have to be careful how we apply those terms in Canada. I think a lot of other countries would be surprised if they looked at the Canadian jurisprudence and the breadth of people who are found complicit.”
In its original 2002 decision on Mr. Teganya’s refugee claim, the Immigration and Refugee Board questioned why Mr. Teganya wasn’t killed at the hospital, and whether that meant militiamen identified his as someone sympathetic to their cause.
“The panel is entitled to ask itself why the presence of the claimant on the campus did not seem to concern the extremists, who pursued their dirty work for several weeks,” the board wrote. “Is it not reasonable to think that the Hutu extremists, in leaving alive the claimant, who is not a Tutsi, had every reason to believe that the claimant was not a Hutu moderate and shared the same purpose, namely to eliminate the Tutsis and the moderate Hutus?”
Mr. Teganya left the hospital in June and fled Rwanda for the Congo a month later. He has been in Canada since November, 1999. Mr. Waldman wouldn’t say where Mr. Teganya is living and working, but he is married with children and if deported he would become a target in Rwanda as a deported war criminal because of his relationship with his imprisoned father, Mr. Waldman said.
The issue of complicity in war crimes is a very “subtle” area of the law where bystanders to atrocities have been convicted of war crimes for not intervening, depending on if they were in a position of authority and knew what was happening, said William Schabas, a Canadian expert on international criminal law and director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights.
Canada’s approach to the issue of complicity has been consistent with other countries who deport suspected war criminals, Mr. Schabas said. “It doesn’t sound to me to be totally unreasonable that there would be a finding of complicity if someone was involved in operating an institution where genocide was taking place,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual or broad or unreasonable about or [Canada’s] application of the law.”
Mr. Tegayna has other avenues of appeal, said his lawyer, who plans to submit new evidence that Mr. Teganya’s father is serving a lengthy prison sentence and of the “inhumane” prision conditions in Rwanda.
Mr. Teganya is not the first Canadian refugee claimant to be deemed complicit in war crimes in Rwanda without directly participating in the genocide. In December, the Federal Court found Quebec resident Faustin Rutayisire, 54, to be a war criminal because he was a government administrator of a province where many Tutsis were slaughtered.
“There are Rwandans in Canada who did flee following genocide,” Mr. Schabas said. “They all deny they were involved in genocide. But if nobody was involved in it, who committed it and why did they flee the country?”