Cameroon: Former Political Operative Expelled from Canada
16 April 2009
A young man from Cameroon has been expelled from Canada after a federal judge declared that his sudden marriage to a Canadian did not make amends for his crimes against humanity as a political spy or for procuring underage girls for the sexual pleasure of the president's cousin.
Eric Francis Tchoumbou, 23, of Montreal, had fought to remain in Canada for nearly four years, alleging his former party militia colleagues in his West African homeland had tortured him despite his service as a political operative and party pimp.
He received little sympathy from the government or the courts in Canada after he was found ineligible for refugee status under all three of the United Nation's automatic exclusion criteria.
Mr. Tchoumbou's difficulties began at the age of 17, soon after he joined the youth wing of the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), the political party of ruling president Paul Biya.
“The leader of the CPDM [youth] put me in with a group of members that had to do certain tasks for the government,” Mr. Tchoumbou told Canadian officials when first applying for asylum.
At a birthday party for another member, he met the cousin of Mr. Biya and soon found a role for himself within the party: his main job was to introduce girls to the cousin, something he did a dozen times over a period of nine months, he told Canadian officials.
“In exchange for pocket money, good restaurant meals and the company of the cousin of president Biya, [Mr. Tchoumbou] found girls, who could sometimes be minors, so this cousin could have sexual relations,” according to a ruling by the Federal Court of Canada.
He later joined the party's militia, the “paramilitary organization serving the party or the repressive apparatus of the state that keeps that party in power,” according to an Immigration and Refugee Board decision.
Mr. Tchoumbou described his second party job to immigration officials: “I would be sent to infiltrate the political opposition parties that were demonstrating against the government in order to identify the organizers and those who incited the others to take to the street.
“I also identified those who were sounding alarms and who encouraged the demonstrators to do anything they could to disturb the peace and to defeat the current government's actions,” he told Canadian authorities.
Those he identified as political opponents were later tortured, officials found.
In May, 2004, he said he was brought to a room where police were beating political opponents of the president. He was asked to join in the torture but refused and left the room, he said.
Not long afterwards, he said, government agents grabbed him from his home and tortured him because of his refusal.
While imprisoned, a prison guard told him that he was going to be killed and urged him to flee, he said. He escaped and hid with a friend for a year before coming to Canada in 2005, he said.
The story he told refugee officials in Canada was cause for alarm and was used as evidence of his role in crimes against humanity, serious non-political criminality, and acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, which are three reasons a person automatically becomes ineligible for refugee status.
At a refugee hearing, however, he denied engaging in the activities, adding the issue of credibility to his shortcomings.
Immigration officials did not believe he had been tortured or imprisoned in Cameroon.
After being denied asylum, he appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, which ruled against him in 2008.
Before he was sent back to Cameroon, however, he informed the government that he had just married a Canadian woman and was submitting a sponsored application for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. That led to a second Federal Court battle.
Mr. Tchoumbou argued that if sent back to Cameroon he would suffer irreparable harm because he will be separated from his wife as well as face inhumane treatment because of his political opinion.
Justice Michel Shore recently ruled against his attempt to stay.
Justice Shore noted that Mr. Tchoumbou did not provide any evidence of his marriage and even if he had, it did not preclude his removal given his exclusion from refugee status under the UN convention.
In this case, wrote Justice Shore, “the balance of convenience favours the public interest.”
A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency said Mr. Tchoumbou has been removed from Canada.
His lawyer did not return phone calls.
Legal and Judicial Affairs
United States, Canada and Africa