10/25/2017 13:21 EDT | Updated 10/28/2017 13:24 EDT

Man accused of crimes against humanity fights to keep Canadian citizenship

OTTAWA — A man accused of committing crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia is fighting a federal move to strip his Canadian citizenship.

Cedo Kljajic is denying the government's assertion he fraudulently obtaining citizenship by concealing his key role in the creation and operation of a police force that carried out abuses on behalf of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb Republic in the early 1990s.

The government claims he made false statements about his past to obtain permanent resident status in Canada in 1995 and citizenship in 1999.

The government says that renders Kljajic, who lives in Quebec, inadmissible to Canada, meaning he could be deported if the government case succeeds.

In their statement of claim filed in August in Federal Court, the government detailed tensions between Serb, Croat and Muslim party leaders that arose in 1991 over the prospect of Bosnia and Herzegovina breaking away from Yugoslavia. That led to the emergence of distinct Bosnian Serb political, administrative and police institutions.

Shortly after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, war broke out.

In the first months of the war, the focus of the Bosnian Serb leadership was to forge an ethnically homogenous territory by eliminating Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed regions, the federal statement says.

It says thousands of active and reserve members of the RS MUP police took part in a campaign of attacks that included arbitrary and illegal arrest and detention of a significant portion of the non-Serb population, and the mental and physical torture, sexual assault and killing of many detainees.

The federal claim says Kljajic was appointed undersecretary of public security for the Bosnian Serb Republic, making him legally responsible for the RS MUP police and its acts.

Kljajic was "a staunch supporter" of an ethnic Serb police force, participated in its creation, and was responsible for the general oversight and direction of police work throughout the territory controlled by the Bosnian Serb regime from the beginning of hostilities until November 1992, the statement adds.

From early on in the conflict, Kljajic "had full knowledge" of the crimes being committed by his subordinates in the Serb police force, it says.

But in a brief statement of defence filed recently with the court, Kljajic contests the allegations and outlines his own version of the facts.

He says he served the administration in "various regional capacities" from about April and September 1992, and that during this time he was actively trying to find a way to flee to Serbia.

Kljajic adds that he "feared retribution from the Bosnian Serb military establishment and/or paramilitaries and only remained in the positions he held due to that fear."

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