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Canada transferred US Army deserter Robin Long back to US custody Tuesday following a decision by the Federal Court of Canada denying his asylum request. Long is the first of an estimated 200 US military personnel avoiding deployment in Canada to be returned to the US. Last week the court allowed another soldier, Joshua Key, to remain in the country while he appeals an initial denial of refugee status. In that case, the court named a number of key factors in determining whether or not the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) should grant an applicant asylum, including the reasons for the objection to deployment, the likely legal consequences of resisting deployment, and the availability of remedies other than Canadian refugee status. Quoting Article 171 of the UN Refugee Agency Handbook regarding the justification for a soldier to be granted asylum in another country, the court wrote:

Not every conviction, genuine thought it may be, will constitute a sufficient reason for claiming refugee status after desertion or draft-evasion. It is not enough for a person to be in disagreement with his government regarding the political justification for a particular military action. Where, however, the type of military action, with which an individual does not wish to be associated, is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct, punishment for desertion or draft-evasion could, in the light of all other requirements of the definition, in itself be regarded as persecution.

In Long's case, the court said he had not adequately substantiated his risk of persecution in the US were he to be denied asylum, and under Canadian law, being granted the status is the only way he could remain in the country.

Earlier this month, Canada's House of Commons voted in a non-binding resolution to grant US military deserters asylum. In November 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, two US military deserters who applied for asylum before the IRB. The Board had concluded that the two men would receive a fair trial if they were returned to the US and that they would not face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment.


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