War Crimes Squad Needs Money As Prosecution Costs Soar

War Crimes Squad Needs money as prosecution costs soar

The Canadian Press
December 21, 2008

OTTAWA—-Canada's war-crimes squad needs more money to do its work, as the cost of prosecuting just one alleged war criminal hits $4 million, says a new report.

The team's case load, already onerous, will remain heavy as more immigrants come to Canada from countries where atrocities have occurred, says the Justice Department document.

The RCMP in particular needs more money to investigate alleged war criminals and people accused of crimes against humanity. And the Canada Border Services Agency needs cash to fix a computer system that's supposed to track suspects, the report concludes.

“The limited resources available for investigation, in relation to the inventory of serious cases, place an important limitation on the program's contribution to the objective of denying safe haven,” says the draft document, dated Oct. 14 this year.

The evaluation was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

A final version of the document, prepared by the consulting firm Goss Gilroy Inc. for the Justice Department, is expected to be made public early next year.

Even the simplest prosecution of an alleged war criminal costs taxpayers $4 million, and the bill for revoking citizenship can hit $1.3 million if the person appeals the decision, researchers found. Extraditions to a foreign country cost about $500,000 each.

Those sky-high costs eat into a limited annual budget of about $15.6 million, shared among the RCMP, Citizenship and Immigration, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Justice Department.

The present war-crimes program was launched in 1998 to better co-ordinate Canada's modern efforts to prosecute and deny safe haven to war criminals, a policy announced in 1987 by the government of Brian Mulroney.

The annual funding of $15.6 million has not changed since 1998. The current five-year funding commitment is scheduled to end March 31, 2010.

A briefing note last year for Stockwell Day, then public safety minister, acknowledged the program is being squeezed.

“Given inflation, increased salary costs, accommodation, and new corporate support costs since 1998, funding for the program has in effect been significantly reduced,” it said.

Between 2001 and 2006, officials removed 221 people and prevented another 2,100 from entering the country.

Despite those successes, which have been lauded around the world, the current work load is overwhelming investigators and Crown prosecutors.

“Even if the inventory (of cases) were halved by use of more stringent criteria, it would still exceed both the investigative capacity of the RCMP War Crimes Section and the budget for prosecutions available to the DOJ (Department of Justice) War Crimes Section,” the report warns.

The first person charged in Canada under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which became law in 2000, was Desire Munyaneza, for his alleged role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was arrested in Toronto in 2005 after a five-year RCMP probe.

The Goss Gilroy study estimated prosecution costs of $4 million by examining an “African” case and a “European” case, neither of which it identified further.

The study notes that the cost would typically be spread over 30 months, and that travel alone accounts for about $1.5 million of the total.

Last year, the four departments agreed to use scarce resources to prevent more alleged war criminals from entering Canada, rather than for prosecutions of persons already living here, despite pressure from human-rights groups that Canada use the courts more often.

The strategy, seen as more cost-effective, is endorsed by the Goss Gilroy evaluation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Carole Saindon, said it would be “premature to comment” on whether the draft report's recommendations will be adopted.

“The program partners are continuing to target their efforts on the most crucial and cost-effective activities to support program objectives,” she added in an email response to questions.

The report is especially critical of a key database created by Citizenship and Immigration but later transferred to the Canada Border Services Agency.

The agency is unable to exploit the so-called Modern War Crimes System database because the programming is incompatible with the CBSA's own computer systems.

“This means that CBSA, as the main user of MWCS, cannot input new information into the system, or update it, as the platform used by the agency is not compatible with the one used by CIC (Citizenship and Immigration),” says the document.

The report calls on the government to provide money to upgrade the system.

The Goss Gilroy Inc. evaluation cost $196,000.