Man deported in alleged cannibalism, war crimes case
Stewart Bell Apr 28, 2011 – 6:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Apr 28, 2011 6:53 AM ET
The Mouvement de Libération du Congo was a particularly vile band of war thugs. During their armed campaign to seize power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebels massacred civilians, raped nuns and sometimes ate their victims.
But for three years, a ranking member of the rebel group lived freely in Montreal. Ambroise Mapangu Ishaku, a 50-year-old Kinshasa lawyer, arrived at Quebec’s Lacolle border crossing in January 2008 and claimed refugee status on the grounds he feared for his life.
He was finally deported on March 6. No official statement was issued at the time but the Canada Border Services Agency confirmed his removal to the National Post. The agency would provide no further details.
“For safety and security reasons, the CBSA will not divulge the country of removal,” spokesperson Esme Bailey said. Asked if he was deported on a commercial flight or government-chartered jet, she would not answer “for privacy reasons.” Nor would she explain why he was not detained while in Canada.
The case is the latest success of Ottawa’s 13-year-old War Crimes Program, but some question whether deportation is the right way to deal with those who turn up in Canada after being complicit in international atrocities.
“The actual international legal obligation is to either prosecute someone here or to extradite them to a country where they will then stand trial,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, legal counsel for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.
“So deporting them does not comply with Canada’s legal obligations. On top of that,” he added, “generally they are almost always going to be returned to a situation where they just go free, and that’s not really advancing the accountability cause at all.”
Canada deported 23 war criminals in 2007-2008, the latest year for which the program has issued an annual report. At that time, another 211 were awaiting deportation. A further 170 suspected or known war criminals were wanted on outstanding warrants. Canada has so far prosecuted two suspects in criminal court, both Rwandans.
“Certainly there is a punishment element to deportation but the trouble is you’re just exporting the problem to somewhere else,” Mr. Eisenbrandt said.
He said most of the war crimes program’s $15.6-million budget goes to immigration agencies rather than to the RCMP.
One solution would be to make it easier for victims to sue war criminals, he said. “Given that there aren’t many criminal prosecutions going on, they should be able to file civil lawsuits in Canadian courts so at least they get a chance to have their day in court and seek compensation from people like this.”
In contrast to Canada’s treatment of Mr. Ishaku’s case as an immigration matter, his former boss, Mouvement de Libération du Congo commander Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, was arrested in Belgium in 2008 and charged with war crimes committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. His trial at the International Criminal Court resumes May 3.
One witness told the International Criminal Court how the rebels forced him to lie face down while they raped his 10-year-old daughter. Another described how the Mouvement de Libération came to his house and told him, “OK, you will live but we will have to f— your anus.” Three rebels raped him in succession. They then raped his two daughters.
“The evidence also reports incidences of cannibalism,” Immigration Refugee Board Member Michelle Langelier wrote after hearing Mr. Ishaku’s case.
She said children made up 40% of the armed wing of the Mouvement de Libération.
“These children were subjected to unimaginable horrors, forced to fight and often kill their own families, forced to engage in cannibalism, raped and used as sex slaves.”
Confronted with evidence of rebel atrocities, Mr. Ishaku was “completely lacking in empathy for the thousands of victims,” Ms. Langelier wrote.
“He spoke of this period in his country’s history as a period of isolated incidents, ‘pockets of resistance,’ the normal consequences of war. In my opinion, however, the massacres of civilians; the systematic rape of women, girls and young girls; and the recruitment of child soldiers are not the collateral damage of a war.”
The refugee board ruled he was complicit in crimes against humanity because he knew about the Mouvement de Libération’s abuses but kept quiet to advance his own political ambitions. (He hoped to get a government post once the rebels seized power.) Mr. Ishaku appealed to the Federal Court of Canada but lost.
The judge said the rebel group had used “all means necessary” to advance its cause, including arbitrary arrests, murder, rape, executions, cannibalism, massacres, torture, plunderings, fires, recruitment of children, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
“The applicant occupied a decision-making position or at the very least of advice, being a member of the legal college of the movement. He was not a subordinate unaware of the direction his organization took.”