Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

As deportation nears, Rwandan makes last plea to stay in Canada

Leon Mugesera arrives with his wife, Jemma, at the Federal Court building in Montreal on Monday.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A man considered one of the architects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide has used up his last appeal 19 years after arriving in Canada.

Lawyers for Léon Mugesera and the department of Citizenship and Immigration argued late into the evening Monday over whether the scholar and Quebec City resident faces the risk of persecution, torture and murder upon deportation to Rwanda.

If Mr. Mugesera loses the argument in Federal Court, he has no right to appeal. The removal process would begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday. Mr. Justice Michel Shore is expected to deliver his decision by midnight Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

While Mr. Mugesera was calm in court, smiling and shaking hands with a dozen well-wishers from Quebec's Rwandan community, the urgency of Mr. Mugesera's plight was transmitted by his lawyer, Johanne Doyon. She described herself as frustrated and fed up.

Ms. Doyon assailed Ottawa for informing Mr. Mugesera of his deportation days before Christmas, complicating his appeal.

Mr. Mugesera was ruled inadmissible to Canada nearly seven years ago, but his deportation was held up by concerns of persecution in Rwanda. In a decision completed in late November, an immigration official found the situation in Rwanda had finally improved enough to allow the deportation to go ahead.

"When the [official]assessed risk, he ignored the extensive evidence provided by Mr. Mugesera that he would be tortured and that his life would be in jeopardy," Ms. Doyon said, adding Mr. Mugesera is an enemy of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Other enemies of Mr. Kagame have been killed as recently as 2010.

In the face of repeated questioning by Judge Shore, Ms. Doyon turned her sights on him, accusing him of having made up his mind. She said she would demand the judge withdraw from the case. The judge carried on but allowed Ms. Doyon to blow through the two-hour limit for arguments.

In 1992, Mr. Mugesera delivered a speech laden with violent imagery urging Hutus to get rid of the "cockroaches" that plagued Rwanda. Mr. Mugesera was chased out of the country a short time later, but the speech was replayed frequently leading up to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2005 that there were "reasonable grounds" to conclude Mr. Mugesera was inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis.

Story continues below advertisement

"This case is about the power of words and what they mean to someone who is listening," Crown lawyer Lisa Maziade said. "Canada must not become a haven for those who commit grave crimes such as those committed here by Mr. Mugesera."

The Rwandan government has offered Canada assurances about Mr. Mugesera's treatment, including that the Red Cross would monitor his detention. Ms. Doyon said such assurances only show the risk is unacceptable.

Human-rights organizations have said the risk of torture and murder for those accused of war crimes or testifying in trials has diminished greatly since the early 2000s. However, they also warn Rwandan courts still lack impartiality. UN and European tribunals each delivered rulings allowing the return of Rwandan war criminals for the first time late last year.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to