4th war crimes suspect arrested in Toronto area

A fourth person living in Canada illegally and identified by the federal government as a suspected war criminal has been arrested, two ministers say.

A fourth person living in Canada illegally and identified by the federal government as a suspected war criminal has been arrested in the Greater Toronto Area.

Henry Pantoja Carbonel, originally from Peru, was arrested and taken into custody by the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told reporters Wednesday at a news conference in Ottawa.

Henry Pantoja Carbonel, originally from Peru, was taken into Canada Border Services Agency custody on a removal order. ((CBSA))

A CBSA spokeswoman said Pantoja Carbonel, 53, was arrested on Tuesday. Three others identified by the federal government have already been taken into custody since last week, when Ottawa released the names of 30 suspected war criminals it says entered the country illegally.

"Canada will not be a haven for those who have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity," Toews said. "With the help of citizens, the suspects are being located, and they will face the consequences."

Toews would not give additional information on the allegations against the latest arrestee, saying the government's focus is to remove individuals who have been determined to be inadmissible to Canada.

The government has previously said none of the 30 people on its list is facing criminal charges abroad. But they have been deemed inadmissible by the Immigration and Refugee Board based on having "reasonable grounds" to believe they were involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.  

When asked why Canada doesn't prosecute the individuals, Toews said the government is only enforcing removal orders and the job of prosecuting them falls to the country of origin or the United Nations.

"We are not making a finding of guilt or innocence," the minister said.

Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act specifies that people accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity can be prosecuted here if they are in Canada.

Toews acknowledged "certain rare cases" where individuals have been prosecuted in Canada for such crimes committed elsewhere, but added it's not the general rule.

"It's not a particularly effective way of prosecuting given that the evidence is in other countries," the minister said.

Allegations not revealed

Numerous Peruvians have faced charges stemming from the government of former president Alberto Fujimori between 1990 and 2000, which is accused of severe human rights abuses, including the use of death squads, torture and forced sterilizations. Accusations have also arisen from the practices of the Shining Path militant group, which fought a 12-year insurgency through the 1980s and early 1990s in which up to 70,000 people died or disappeared.

But Peru has had considerable difficulty in prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity, and there is no guarantee Pantoja Carbonel would face a trial if deported.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, left, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews say Canada cannot be a safe haven for war criminals. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Prompted by a media report, the federal government last week posted the names, birth dates and photographs of the suspects on the Canada Border Services Agency website and called for any information that could lead to their whereabouts.

CBC News' practice is not to name suspects who have not been charged with offences, and therefore is not publishing the full list of names and photos at this time.

Kenney said Canada has "probably the strongest" laws precluding war criminals or those found guilty of crimes against humanity from entering the country. But he noted many seeking to exploit the immigration and refugee system use fake identities.

"We have a very tight screen but … we cannot guarantee it 100 per cent that we’re going to avoid criminals of this nature from sneaking into Canada," the immigration minister said.

Toews also said he couldn't say for sure whether the most recent arrest was "solely" based on tips, or a result of continuing intelligence.

The CBSA said it is "unable to divulge specific details in accordance with privacy laws" about the allegations against the individuals. But the agency said it has been determined that they violated human or international rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or under international law.

Toews added he is discussing with the CBSA and Kenney the possibility of expanding the website deportation initiative to other foreign nationals who face criminal charges abroad or have been convicted of crimes in Canada and ordered removed.