Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Canadian federal court suspends deportation of Rwandan man (Includes interview and first-hand account)

“This is an unusual matter which involves the court’s equitable jurisdiction to prevent a miscarriage of justice,” Judge Michael Phelan said in a ruling Friday, three days before the scheduled deportation.
Jean Berchmans Habinshuti sought asylum in Canada in 2011 but was later stripped of his refugee status and jailed in 2014 after a Canadian immigration official said he was inadmissible because of his ties to a regime that governed Rwanda prior to the genocide.
“This man has been wrongly imprisoned for a year and a half, under constant threat of deportation. This injustice is rooted in our Kafkaesque immigration law, which is so broad it is interpreted as capturing the innocent,” Habinshuti’s lawyer Raoul Boulakia told Digital Journal.
Habinshuti was the private secretary to Rwanda’s Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a highly respected politician who was killed by presidential guards as soon as the genocide began.
Habinshuti himself was not part of the interim government that took over during the genocide. After the prime minister was murdered he went into hiding with his family during the three-month carnage. He later became a member of parliament in post-genocide Rwanda and was never charged with war crimes. Before fleeing Rwanda four years ago, Habinshuti fell out of favour with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)– led by President Paul Kagame — when he was asked to testify against someone he believed was innocent, his family told Digital Journal.
After Canada ordered his deportation in 2014, the Rwandan government accused Habinshuti of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and complicity to commit genocide, among other crimes.
Several experts in Rwandan politics and history offered statements of support for Habinshuti, among them Faustin Twagiramungu, Rwanda’s first post-genocide prime minister who ultimately broke with Kagame’s iron-fisted rule and fled the country in 1995 amid fears for his life.
Susan Thomson, who teaches peace and conflict studies at Colgate University in New York, wrote a letter on Habinshuti’s behalf, saying he appeared to be a victim of a smear campaign by the Rwandan government.
“A number of Rwandan critics such as Jean Berchmans Habinshuti are caught up in smear campaigns, which are tied to a broader RPF strategy of controlling the narrative of how the genocide happened, who planned it and why,” wrote Thomson, author of Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda.
Habinshuti’s immigration application in Canada was bungled when an official wrongly interpreted a passage in a book written by genocide scholar André Guichaoua from the University of Paris. Guichaoua wrote that Habinshuti and Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana attended a meeting that became a turning point in the days leading up to the genocide.
The immigration appeal division interpreted this passage to mean that Habinshuti exercised influence as an official in a regime that committed genocide and crimes against humanity.
Guichaoua, who has provided expertise for Canada’s war crimes court and for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, tried to correct this misinterpretation in an affidavit. He intervened again this week by contacting Canada’s Department of Justice, saying Habinshuti was the victim of a grave injustice.
On Friday, Judge Phelan said Guichaoua had pointed out his book had been “wrongly utilized in immigration proceedings…(and)…misunderstood.”
“It is in the interests of justice that deportation be stayed to permit this matter to be addressed,” the judge noted.
Rwanda has recently stepped up attempts to silence critics who have fallen afoul with the regime, accusing them of genocide and urging western nations to deport them.
A case raising concern in the United States is that of Leopold Munyakazi, a Rwandan professor who taught French at Goucher College in Maryland. Munyakazi faces deportation on charges of inciting genocide and genocide negation following a speech he gave in 2006 in which he called the violence in Rwanda ‘civil war’ instead of genocide.
“I refer to it as civil war, not genocide; it was about political power,” Munyakazi said. “Ethnicity is not really understood about Rwanda. In Rwanda there are no tribes. There are social groups. They are one single people.”
Munyakezi was first arrested in Rwanda in 1994 after a conference he attended where he expressed his views. He spent more than four years in prison but was never charged with crimes.
Experts — including the late Alison Des Forges from Human Rights Watch – argued that Rwanda’s 2006 indictment against Munyakazi was not convincing.
Thomson, meanwhile, urged US authorities to stop the deportation process.
“Leopold Munyakazi has been the subject of government of Rwanda harassment and intimidation of its real and perceived political opponents. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front seeks to assert total control of public and political life in Rwanda, both as a way to consolidate its power base while eliminating all forms of dissent,” she wrote in a letter to US immigration officials.
This week Munyakazi’s deportation was suspended pending a judicial review.

Written By

You may also like:


Four children -- aged 13, 9, 4, and 11 months -- have been wandering the Colombian Amazon since a light aircraft crash on May...

Tech & Science

Global leaders should be working to reduce "the risk of extinction" from artificial intelligence technology, a group of industry chiefs warned.


Simulation plays a critical role in the energy industry — it helps us “see” what’s hidden underground. Companies use simulation to optimize well development...

Tech & Science

Good password managers offer protection by encrypting the stored passwords so that no one else has access to them.