Former Soldier During Rwandan Genocide Granted Latest Immigration Appeal

Former soldier during Rwandan genocide granted latest immigration appeal

By Adrian Humphreys
National Post
May 4, 2010

A man whose refugee status in Canada was stripped for complicity in crimes against humanity during the Rwandan genocide and for the murder of a neighbour who refused to have sex with him has won a fresh chance to remain in Canada.

Henri Jean-Claude Seyoboka, 43, of Gatineau, Que., who is related to the Rwandan president whose assassination sparked the 1994 genocide, has already been told six times in judicial and tribunal proceedings that he is ineligible to remain in Canada because of complicity in atrocities.

Tuesday, however, the Federal Court of Canada told him he could again argue his case before the Immigration and Refugee Board, citing changes in the evidence coming from Rwanda.

“As I see it, the board had an obligation to assess these developments against the evidence produced at the (refugee status) vacation proceedings to determine whether a breach of natural justice had occurred,” wrote Justice James O'Reilly in his ruling.

Seyoboka came to Canada in 1996, where he lives with his wife and children, and was granted refugee protection without him mentioning his service in the Rwandan army at the time of the genocide.

Two years later, he came to the attention of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda during its investigation of another man. When ICTR investigators accompanied by an RCMP officer came to interview Seyoboka in Canada, he admitted his past military service but denied engaging in atrocities.

Ottawa moved to revoke his refugee status in 2005.

In 2006, the IRB found Seyoboka was complicit, if not directly involved, in the slaughter. Based on gruesome evidence before the ICTR from a witness in Rwanda, he was also found by the IRB to have been personally involved in the killing of a neighbour named Francine and her two children because she refused to have sex with him.

In reaching its conclusion, however, the IRB relied on evidence from an ICTR indictment that was partially based on testimony that has since been found not to be entirely credible. Seyoboka argued that information should retroactively impact the Canadian decision.

O'Reilly agreed.

Lorne Waldman, Seyoboka's lawyer, praised the decision.

“I'm sure my client is quite happy with the result,” Waldman said, although that is tempered by the fact the court's decision merely grants him a fresh hearing and does not determine what the IRB will decide when it again hears from Seyoboka.

Seyoboka previously told the National Post that he was not the cruel killer the government paints him to be, saying the evidence against him is based on lies.

“It is not true,” said Seyoboka.

He had nothing to do with Francine's death and was not involved in the atrocities of the genocide, when an estimated 800,000 people were killed in 100 days, mainly members of the Tutsi ethnic minority, by Hutu soldiers and militia.

He also denies that his father-in-law played any role in promoting extremism prior to the start of the genocide.

Seyoboka is the son-in-law of Col. Elie Sagatwa, who was a relative of the former first lady of Rwanda. Sagatwa was appointed head of presidential security and the president's personal secretary. Reports in Rwanda say he was an early advocate of Hutu extremism.

The close connection Sagatwa had to Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was shown on April 6, 1994, when the president's airplane was shot down seen as the catalyst for the massacre; Seyoboka's father-inlaw was also on board.

“On the sixth of April, they killed him too, so he could not have been involved (in the genocide),” Seyoboka said.

His actions during the genocide, in his account, are not those of a war criminal: “I was among the infinitesimal minority in the army who used their position not to kill, but rather to save Tutsi civilians,” he declared.

Waldman said nothing negative should be taken from the number of times Seyoboka has appealed his case.

“Everyone has the right to go to court and assert his rights,” he said.

The IRB will be reviewing the court's decision, said Charles Hawkins, a spokesman for the IRB. A new hearing date has not been set.