A former academic and political activist accused of helping orchestrate the 1994 Rwandan genocide has asked a judge to “swim in relatively new legal waters” in an unusual appeal to allow him to stay in Canada.
Léon Mugesera will find out Monday morning if Superior Court Justice Michel Delorme decides to jump in and prevent his deportation. Whatever the judge’s ruling, the case is likely to wash up in the Quebec Court of Appeal by lunchtime with no certainty about when it might finally be resolved.
Mr. Mugesera, who is accused of inciting the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis, asked the court Friday to put his deportation on hold so he can force Ottawa to allow a United Nations committee to examine the risk of torture he faces in Rwanda.
Faced with apparent skepticism from Judge Delorme, Mr. Mugesera’s lawyer, Martin André Roy, said Canada’s treaties are meaningless if the federal government can choose which ones to follow.
“It’s intolerable that countries could just set aside their own treaties,” Mr. Roy said. “But I’ll admit, Your Worship, that we are swimming in relatively new legal waters.”
The Federal Court has already ruled, based on a six-year examination by immigration officials, that Mr. Mugesera does not face torture as defined by the UN.
Federal lawyer Lisa Maziade said any UN obligations have already been fulfilled, and accused Mr. Mugesera of shopping among Canadian courts for his desired outcome. She asked the judge to toss the case out. Federal officials have said they will carry out Mr. Mugesera’s deportation as soon as possible.
“The risks [of torture]were the subject of an exhaustive analysis, and was based upon a substantial amount of evidence,” Ms. Maziade said. “The question was studied at length and in great depth.”
In the face of Canadian case law suggesting Ottawa is not bound to follow UN processes, Mr. Mugesera’s lawyer said international law is evolving to expand the reach of UN treaties into domestic law.
Mr. Mugesera, a Quebec City resident, made his request to the UN after exhausting what was supposed to be his final appeal in Canadian court earlier this month. He is expected to face trial in Rwanda.
Mr. Mugesera has always maintained the 1992 speech which led to allegations of crimes against humanity was simply a political speech without violent intention. He has long minimized the extent of the genocide while pointing to crimes committed by Tutsis.