War crimes prosecution not up to Canada, Toews says

It's not up to Canada to prosecute people suspected of crimes against humanity, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday.

6th war crimes suspect in Canadian custody

It's not up to Canada to prosecute people suspected of crimes against humanity, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday. The government has been publicly stepping up its deportations of people deemed inadmissible to Canada because they may have participated in war crimes or crimes against humanity. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

It's not up to Canada to prosecute people suspected of crimes against humanity, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday.

The federal government has been publicly stepping up deportations of people found inadmissible to Canada because of a suspicion they may have participated in war crimes.

But Toews said it's not realistic for Canada to investigate, prosecute and imprison people who commit crimes against humanity in other countries.

"Canada is not the UN. It's not our responsibility to make sure each one of these faces justice in their own countries," he told Rosemary Barton on CBC's Power & Politics.

"What we are doing with [the Canada Border Services Agency] is ensuring that Canadian law is obeyed. These individuals have no right to be here and are being removed," he said, adding that it's his responsibility to have them removed in the interest of Canadians' safety.

Prompted by a media report, the federal government launched a website  with the names, birthdates and photographs of 30 individuals living illegally in Canada after they were turned down for refugee status, and appealed for any information that could lead to their whereabouts.

The Immigration and Refugee Board deemed all 30 inadmissible to Canada because there were "reasonable grounds" to believe they were involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

'Long-standing failure'

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International in Canada, said the men aren't likely to face justice once deported. He said they may not face charges in their home countries or they could be subject to torture because of the allegations they face.

"Clearly, it is an overarching human rights imperative that individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity face justice. And in Canada, there is a long-standing failure to do just that," he said.

Toews said he was surprised Canada had not already been asking for community help in finding people subject to deportation orders. After a media report raised the question, he went to CBSA to ask why not.

"Why aren't these names being published? These are individuals that have warrants out for their arrest. They're evading arrest. They are fugitives. Why aren't you releasing their names and photographs?"

" It doesn't make any sense," he said.

Toews said publishing the list has also let other countries know Canada is looking for these people. He said Canada wasn't routinely sharing the information. even with the U.S.

6th person arrested

Earlier Wednesday, CBSA said a sixth person living in Canada and identified by the federal government as a war crimes suspect had been arrested.

Cesar Amilcar Chavarria Padilla turned himself in to authorities in the Toronto area. ((CBSA))

Cesar Amilcar Chavarria Padilla, who is originally from Guatemala, turned himself in to authorities in the Toronto area on Tuesday. He is currently in CBSA custody.

Padilla, 57, is  the sixth person taken into custody in Canada since the launch of the website, while the government said another man on the list is in U.S. custody in Florida. Two of those arrested have already been removed from Canada.

"The very fact that this individual chose to surrender himself into CBSA custody illustrates how effective this approach has been," Toews said in a statement. "These suspected war criminals are feeling the pressure of having their names and faces known to Canadians."

The government has previously said none of the 30 people on its list is facing criminal charges abroad.

Questions about process

Liberal MP Geoff Regan said the list seems to be working, but he questions whether the men on the list have had due process. The standard of proof at IRB admission hearings is lower than it would be in a court of law.

"The bigger concern is about whether this is simply a public relations campaign by the government," Regan said.

NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan said she was surprised the list was released over the summer while the House of Commons wasn't sitting and the opposition couldn't participate in the discussion.

"It's just interesting, the timing of the release of the list, and then the immediate capturing. It's just interesting to me," she said.

The first man to be arrested after the list was released was taken into custody just one day after the government launched the website and a second man was arrested days later.

Neve said Canada has laws that allow the justice system to prosecute suspected war criminals in the Canadian justice system.

"Those are important reforms we've seen in Canada over the last 10 to 15 years. That's the route we should be going.... This is an approach that is deeply flawed."