March 30, 2006

Yet another way that the Iraq war is like the Vietnam war.

An increasing number of deserters from the US military are seeking asylum in Canada.

Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum.

A decision on a test case involving two US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border. At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003.

From UK Guardian, via WB42 5:30 Report With Doug Krile.

Posted by Magpie at March 30, 2006 03:45 PM | Iraq | Technorati links |

It's not really the same legal point that was at issue during the Vietnam war era. Most of the Americans who came to Canada at that time were people who had received draft notices but didn't want to join the armed forces.

Extradition treaties are usually drawn up on the basis of acts that are against the law in both countries. Since Canada didn't have a draft during the Vietnam war era, the act of not responding to a draft notice was not a crime in Canada.

Desertion is a different matter, since the person has already accepted the rules governing being in the military. All members of the U.S. military today are volunteers. Desertion from the Canadian armed forces is a crime in Canada. On this basis deserters from the U.S. military should not be allowed to remain in Canada.

In my recollection, Canada did not usually accept deserters during the Vietnam war era, although draft dodgers were accepted according to the usual immigration rules. The legal basis is that anyone can apply to immigrate to Canada--their legal status in their country of origin is not relevant unless they have committed a crime that is covered by an extradition treaty. Some other countries (e.g., Sweden) did accept American deserters.

The argument that the Iraq war is illegal under international law and therefore deserting U.S. soldiers should be accepted as refugees from political persecution is a new argument that has not yet been addressed by the courts.

Posted by: maidhc at March 31, 2006 01:06 AM