POLITICS

A Quebec judge to rule Monday in case of Rwandan man who faces deportation

01/20/2012 04:00 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - A Rwandan man facing deportation to his native country on charges of inciting genocide will spend at least one final weekend in Canada while a judge considers his fate.

Leon Mugesera had seemingly exhausted his appeals and was on the verge of being deported after a 16-year fight to stay in Canada before his lawyers appealed to the United Nations Committee Against Torture last week.

Mugesera's lawyers argued in Quebec Superior Court on Friday that he should be allowed to remain in Canada while the UN body investigates his allegations he'd be harmed if returned to Rwanda.

Lawyer Martin Andre Roy argued that Canada wouldn't be respecting its international obligations if it didn't keep Mugesera in this country.

"The essence of this debate is not an immigration matter," Roy told Quebec Superior Court.

Roy and his colleagues wanted the court to grant a permanent injunction on Mugesera's impending deportation and argued with federal lawyers over whether a UN treaty has any bearing on domestic laws.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the federal government insisted Quebec Superior Court has no jurisdiction over an immigration matter and questions of torture had been exhaustively considered by the government.

Justice Michel Delorme is scheduled to rule on Mugesera's deportation when the court reconvenes Monday morning.

Federal lawyers agreed Friday that Mugesera would not be ejected from the country before 11 a.m. on Monday.

Mugesera's legal team admitted to Delorme that their arguments were "swimming in relatively new legal waters," and therefore could be considered by his court.

But lawyers for the federal government said Mugesa's legal team was stalling for time.

"You can't go shopping for a stay," federal lawyer Lisa Maziade argued.

Government lawyers say the case is still essentially a federal immigration matter and under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Court.

That jurisdiction has already dealt with the Mugesera case, most recently with a request for a stay. A judicial review of the case was also denied by Judge Michel Shore.

Federal lawyers also argued that the UN committee's request is not binding and that Canadian officials have spent six years evaluating the risk of torture before ultimately deciding to return Mugesera to Rwanda in late 2011.

"To say that the issue of torture hasn't been dealt with is false," Maziade said.

"The probability that another organization will find a risk of torture is low."

The federal government says it is not bound by UN treaties, even if the country ratified them, if they aren't incorporated into domestic laws. It still intends to deport Mugesera as quickly as the courts allow.

Ottawa planned to deport Mugesera last week but his hospitalization and the new legal challenge stalled that attempt.

Federal officials attending Friday's hearing seemed to be insisting on a quick decision before midnight. Delorme decided that, after 16 years, another weekend wouldn't change much.

Mugesera is wanted in Rwanda on charges of inciting genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from an inflammatory anti-Tutsi speech he gave in 1992.

The speech by the university professor and one-time Rwandan political operative is considered a key propaganda tool during a 100-day massacre of Tutsis and Hutu moderates some two years later

Between 800,000 and one million Rwandans died during the three-month slaughter in 1994.

Mugesera was initially ordered deported in July 1996. That triggered a legal battle that took him all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where he ultimately lost in 2005.

Federal officials have been unwilling to deport him since because he faced death.

But they say they've been reassured by Rwandan officials and added the situation has changed in that country since Rwanda abolished the death penalty for convicted war criminals in 2007.

Mugesera, 59, and his supporters say it will be impossible for him to have a fair trial in Rwanda where he is considered an enemy of the current government.

Mugesera, who has lived in Quebec City, is currently being held in an immigration detention centre near Montreal after being deemed a flight risk.