The son-in-law of a comrade I know is facing deportation to the U.S. by the Harper Conservatives where he could spend the rest of his natural life in a US military prison for opposing and exposing war crimes in Iraq.
Please read, share, and support their appeal.
[This is about the probable imminent deportation of our son-in-law Joshua Key. If deported, he would likely spend the rest of his natural life in a US military prison for opposing and exposing war crimes in Iraq. We’d appreciate it if you would share this widely. Cross-Canada and international support is welcome! Thanks.]
Mr. Robert Sopuck, MP
January 22, 2014
Dear Mr. Sopuck,
We understand from Mr. Toet MP’s office that you chair the Conservative Party MP Manitoba caucus. Urgently, we request your caucus consider the matter of our son-in-law Joshua Key’s probable imminent deportation to the United States where he would likely spend 35 years in a U.S. military prison.
We are attaching a newsletter produced by family and friends that provides more background. We want to emphasize that deporting Joshua to certain incarceration for the rest of his natural life would be a devastating blow to our family.
His children are too young to realize the gravity of the situation, but the older family members have a firm grasp of the issue.
We know Joshua is not a criminal. He is a kind, loving and caring person who acted correctly and according to international law when he deserted the U.S. military after serving in Iraq in 2003. He wrote about the war crimes he witnessed in The Deserter’s Tale, written with Lawrence Hill (2007).
This is not a crazy opinion, but is supported by the case law of the Nuremberg trials (1948). The court ruled it was no defence to say “I was following orders.”
At times, desertion is perfectly legal and highly recommended. It was the Nazi war criminals who displayed exceedingly bad judgment. Your government is making the same mistake 67 years later.
Tearing Joshua from his family to face extreme persecution in the United States does have consequences beyond his personal fate.
It would create a giant stain on Canada’s reputation as a country that opposes war crimes. Among our allies, it would create a political climate where soldiers are afraid to oppose or expose war crimes. And it would enable war criminals at high levels of command, rather than discourage them.
To be clear, this is not a matter of sudden conscientious objection to military service, but of refusal to commit war crimes or continue in a situation where officers condone or order torture and other war crimes and are not punished.
One of your colleagues, Mr. Jason Kenney, called Joshua and like-minded veterans “bogus refugee claimants.” In our view, this is a canard and prejudicial commentary on what should be a legal matter.
Regrettably, this cannot be contested in court or a tribunal because of the device of Operational Bulletin 202 (2010) , which orders that U.S. deserters are “criminally inadmissible.”
Not only is “criminal” another canard, the bulletin precludes Joshua from providing evidence at the tribunal level of his well-founded fear of persecution if he steps foot on U.S. soil and his legitimate right to refugee protection.
The rule of law no longer applies to Joshua and other U.S. military veterans seeking refugee status. Their status is at the mercy of the minister and in flagrant violation of our ratified obligations under international refugee law.
As demonstrated in the case of a removal order against another U.S. veteran in November, the minister may now deny our daughter Alexina’s application for spousal sponsorship and deport Joshua. Joshua and Alexina have complied with all the sponsorship’s requirements.
A cursory look at international law built around the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) shows it is widely accepted that deserters who actually commit war crimes are not eligible for refugee status. For example, a 1999 UN Refugee Agency memo concerning deserters from Yugoslavia states:
For the status determination of deserters, it is important to recall that those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious non-political crimes may be excluded from refugee status as not deserving of international protection, even though they may otherwise have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for one of the Convention reasons.
Canada’s obligation under international law is to protect soldiers who do not want to commit war crimes and who have a reasonable fear of persecution in their home country.
On an urgent basis, I am asking the Manitoba Conservative caucus to ask your colleagues in Ottawa to
1. Investigate the conformity of Operational Bulletin 202 with Canada’s obligations under international law,
2. Immediately suspend all decisions relating to the removal of deserters from the U.S. military until the investigation is complete, and
3. Allow the full scope of international law to apply to refugee applicants regardless of country of origin.
In our family’s view, Joshua must not serve 35 years in a military prison for refusing to commit war crimes (desertion) and exposing them (he will likely be charged with espionage, but not Lawrence Hill).
In closing, we want to say that we are grateful to have met Ms. Joyce Bateman, MP on January 21. She was the only Conservative MP who agreed to meet with us and listen to our concerns. If you have questions, she will be helpful. Our MP, Shelly Glover (St. Boniface), has not provided a date since asked in December.
We may be reached at (204) 792-3371 or by email with your response.
Cheryl-Anne Carr and
Past chair and treasurer, Canadian Peace Alliance
St. Boniface, Manitoba
cc Conservative MPs in Manitoba and public