July 24, 2013
Complicity in War Crimes Clarified for Refugee Claimants
Posted by: Mario D. Bellissimo
Until Friday, the test that immigration officials used for refugee applications to decide whether or not an applicant has been complicit in war crimes was unclear when it came to defining complicity as mere association or direct and voluntary involvement. The Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling, based on unanimous decision, that guilt by association does not denote complicity and therefore is not reason enough to deny refugee protection.
This was particularly good news for Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola, a former diplomat of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who, after leaving the DRC due to death threats from Congolese intelligence agents, was denied refugee status in Canada. He had been found complicit by association in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Originally, Ezokola appealed the ruling and won at Federal Court, but subsequently lost at the Federal Court of Appeal.
While Ezokola served in the DRC government, it was responsible for numerous war crimes, including the recruitment of child soldiers. But Ezokola’s lawyers have argued that there is no link between him and the crimes committed and in fact, threats on his life came after it came to light that he did not support President Joseph Kabila.
With the new clarification on determining complicity, Ezokola’s case will go back to the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Click here to learn more about claiming refugee protection.