Deportation looms for man linked to Rwandan genocide

A man accused of playing a role in the Rwandan genocide could be deported next week unless he convinces Canadian officials he won't receive a fair trial at home.
Leon Mugesera, seen here with his wife in 2005, is accused of inciting bloodshed in a speech he gave in 1992. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

A man accused of playing a role in the Rwandan genocide could be deported next week unless he convinces Canadian officials he won’t receive a fair trial at home. 

Leon Mugesera has lived in Quebec since 1993 and was granted permanent resident status.

However, in 1995 the Canadian government learned of allegations that Mugesera gave a speech three years earlier at a political meeting in Rwanda, inciting party militants to kill Tutsis. According to court documents, killings took place the next day.

Mugesera's name appears on a list prepared by the American State Department of those implicated in the genocide in Rwanda.

He has been fighting and delaying orders for his deportation for more than 15 years.

In early December, Canada’s Immigration Ministry handed down an 80-page decision that stated Mugesera’s life would not be in danger if he was returned to his home country to stand trial.

It came six years after the Supreme Court restored the decision to return Mugesera to Rwanda, citing reasonable grounds to believe he committed a crime against humanity.

However, the deportation wasn’t immediately enforced because he could have faced the death penalty in his own country.

Rwanda dropped the death penalty for convicted war criminals in 2007.

Mugesera’s deportation is now set to take place on Jan. 12.

Last-minute appeal

His lawyer, Johanne Doyon, told Radio-Canada that steps are underway to prevent the looming deportation.

As a refugee, she said, her client shouldn’t be deported unless he has been convicted of a crime and is deemed a threat to the host country.

"That is not the case with Leon Mugesera," she said. "He was not convicted. He had no right to a fair trial before his peers and the courts and he is not a danger."

Fannie Fontaine, a law professor at Laval University who specializes in international law, said Canada should get a diplomatic guarantee from Rwanda that Mugesera will get a fair trial if he is sent back.

"Canada should send observers to make sure that they don't completely evade their responsibilities," she said.

Mugesera will appear in Federal Court Monday to ask for another delay and to attempt to launch a last-minute appeal.