Canada on verge of deporting man who brought a tyrant to justice

Federal government rejects Cindor Reeves’s bid for refugee status


Cindor Reeves, a man largely responsible for bringing to justice one of the most blood-soaked tyrants in recent history, has had his refugee case rejected by Canada and may soon be deported to his native Liberia, where he runs a high risk of being murdered.

Reeves was the brother-in-law of Charles Taylor, who in 1989 launched a civil war in Liberia that killed more than 200,000 and left Taylor in charge of much of the country. Taylor was elected president during a brief lull in the fighting in 1997. Taylor also created a proxy army in neighbouring Sierra Leone that called itself the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF. The RUF’s child soldiers terrorized Sierra Leone for years. Taylor used them to obtain diamonds. He sent the RUF weapons; they sent him gems. Thousands died as a result.

It is for these crimes the Taylor is now on trial in The Hague. He’s there in large part because Cindor Reeves — of his own volition, without receiving anything, and at enormous risk to himself — helped the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone build its case against Taylor.

“I am willing to go on the record and confirm that CR provided invaluable information that led to the indictment of Charles Taylor and others who were ultimately convicted,” Alan White, chief of investigations for the court from 2002 to 2005, said in a 2009 email that was published in Maclean’s. He further explained Reeves’ help in a 2009 affidavit: “I could always rely on the information and support provided by Mr. Reeves. In his effort to bring peace and security to the region he endangered himself and his family, yet he did so willingly without asking anything in return but for protection for his family. The court owes Mr. Reeves a debt of gratitude for his support and service.”

Reeves got to know Charles Taylor when he was nine and Taylor married his sister. Taylor invited Reeves to live with them when Reeves was 17. In the late 1990s, Reeves helped Taylor run guns and diamonds between Liberia and Sierra Leone. There is no evidence he personally harmed anyone. (I have reported on this and subsequent events in detail here.)

Reeves later turned against Taylor and began to secretly cooperate with British intelligence agents, and with the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was compiling a war crimes case against Taylor. When the court learned from one of its informants that Taylor, suspicious, had sent an assassination squad to murder Reeves in Accra, Ghana, where he was staying at the time, they sent their own team to evacuate him and his family. (David Michael Crane, the Special Court’s chief prosecutor at the time, confirmed this to Maclean’s. Douglas Farah, a former reporter with the Washington Post, has confirmed he introduced Reeves to a British agent.)

The Special Court flew Reeves to Freetown, Sierra Leone. He was debriefed there for six weeks and then placed in witness protection programs in Holland and Germany. Unhappy and unable to work, in 2006 Reeves took his family to Toronto, where Reeves applied for refugee status. He did not hide  his past connections to Charles Taylor and the work he did for him.

Reeves didn’t have the Special Court’s permission to leave Germany, and when he did he lost its protection. But Reeves felt he had little choice. His legal status in the country was precarious, and the Special Court’s failure to properly reimburse the German police services that were managing his case made it more so. Alan White is sympathetic. “Although I don’t necessarily support anyone fleeing to another country without following proper and legal immigration process I can certainly understand why Mr. Reeves fled to Canada after being abandoned by the Special Court in Sierra Leone,” he wrote in his affidavit.

The Special Court, which Canada funds with millions of dollars, has shown little inclination to assist Reeves in Canada. It has come to him at least twice to ask for his help regarding the court’s case against Taylor. Reeves cooperated. He asked for and received nothing in return. Supporting a wife and two small children on low wages, Reeves has been forced to fund a costly and complicated refugee application process on his own.

Liberians loyal to Charles Taylor continue to make threats against Reeves and his family. He received the following email earlier this week:

“President Charles Taylor took you as his own son and look how you repay paid Him by betraying to the international community and helped Him to get him in jail? Cindor IM telling you as I told you two years ago we will kill you here in liberia so we are not going through the trouble of killing you in Canada Because we know that Canada will have you deported to Liberia. Canada, The USA. Germany, and the EU. all used you and look where you at now? Apparently the death of your two sisters didn’t Hurt you enough so your mother in Law […] will died in the coming time time. the same way you made us to suffer by conniving with the international community to take our father , Brothers Uncle president away from us you will feel the weight of death, You will die a very solw and painful death CR. if you go to the cops we will know and take action right away mother fucker.” [sic]

None of this is surprising. Nor are the threats against Reeves empty. Said White in his affidavit: “It is absolutely clear that if Mr. Reeves and his family went to Liberia he would be sought after by Charles Taylor supporters, which are still large in numbers and plentiful in Liberia and he and his family would undoubtedly be in fear of their lives.

David Michael Crane made a similar prediction about what would happen to Reeves in Liberia: “If word ever got out that he was there, I would not give him long,” he said in a 2009 Maclean’s article.

The Immigration and Refugee Board formally rejected Reeves’ case on January 20. He faces imminent expulsion to Liberia, though he retains the right to appeal. Reeves’ wife and children will be allowed to stay. The board cites Article 1F(a) and 1F(b) of the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which excludes from protection persons there are “serious reasons” to believe committed: a “crime against peace,”  a “war crime, a “crime against humanity,” or a “serious non-political crime” outside the country of refuge.

The Immigration and Refugee Board’s panel does not dispute that Reeves helped the Special Court and that these actions may have placed him and his family at risk, but it suggests he was motivated by self-preservation. “[O]ne must question what may have happened to Cindor Reeves and his family had he not come forth with the relevant evidence,” the panel concludes. It then lists the fates of others involved in Liberia and Sierra Leone’s diamond and weapons trade who have been charged or convicted of war crimes. The implication is that the same thing would have happened to Reeves.

This is a serious accusation. One might think the panel would have investigated such a claim before making it. Here’s David Michael Crane, the Special Court’s chief prosecutor, who would have indicted Reeves if what the panel alleges were true: “I don’t have any direct evidence that he was someone who perpetuated war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said in a 2009 statement published in Maclean’s. “Certainly he is not someone I would have prosecuted.”

The panel disputes Reeves’ claim that he began collecting evidence against Charles Taylor in the 1990s and that he attempted to report Charles Taylor and his activities to the U.S. consulate in Burkina Faso in 1997. Among the evidence cited by the panel is that Reeves, they say, did not mention this alleged meeting in interviews with Maclean’s. The Immigration and Refugee Board has no idea what Reeves did or did not say to me. It knows what I published. The panel could have contacted the American diplomat Reeves claims he met and asked him. It appears it did not.

The panel contends the exact date when Reeves provided information to outside sources — including the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the NGO Global Witness, British intelligence agents, and former Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah — is important because it speaks to his credibility, and his motivations. The panel alleges Reeves’ most serious moves against Taylor began in  August 2001, after his wife was arrested and brutalized by Taylor’s thugs in July (though the panel acknowledges Reeves gave Farah a document as early as January 2001). They therefore dispute that Reeves’ participation in Charles Taylor’s weapons-for-diamonds regime was motivated by a desire to gather and distribute evidence of Taylor’s crimes.

I don’t know why Reeves cooperated with Taylor. It might have been greed. It might have been fear. It might have been the safest option available to him in a country that had descended into hell. What is indisputable is that Reeves then risked his life to help bring Taylor to justice, and may now lose it as a result. I doubt that many of us, including those now seeking to deport him, faced with similar circumstances, could find the same courage.

The minister of citizenship and immigration is Jason Kenney. He can be reached here. The Liberal immigration critic is Justin Trudeau. He can be reached here. The NDP’s critic is Olivia Chow. She can be reached here.


Canada on verge of deporting man who brought a tyrant to justice

  1. The Harper government has no interest in human rights, justice or democracy.
    They allow our soldiers to turn prisoners over to be tortured. They allow our citizens to be held and tortured in US jails. They send those who attack corruption and fight for justice and human rights to countries where they most likely will be tortured and killed
    Many Canadians say as long as it doesn't happen to me, who cares?
    That's exactly the way Harper wants it.

    • Point of correction, Asylum not for refugee status. HE was abandon because the special court got to know that he made up stories against taylor. Like reeves , there are lots who claim that their parents was killed by Taylor, but today they work in canada and America to send money back home for them.. people lied because they wanna live good life abroad. These country dont like the truth, they like to here lies. So for you writing this acticle, be careful that history won't judge you.
      Beware! UN EXPERT, ambassaders and foreign officers have to learn how to deal with Africans… African Know that
      they wanna here lies. I know of a lot of people living in the US who claimed their parents was killed by taylor, but their
      parents are alive in liberia. TAylor help thousands of people to get a good life, though some die in the war.

  2. This figures. We talk a good game about democracy, yet support tyrants all over the world.

    Until of course there is a revolution in the streets….and then we quietly switch support and pretend we were on the side of democracy and freedom all along.

  3. WTF is wrong with this country?

  4. On the surface, yes, exactly WTF is wrong with this (and virtually every other 'democracy') these days. Trouble is, todays media only tells you what they want to and therefore one never knows if, indeed they have whole story. Remember the days when you felt with a reasonable degree of certainty we were being told the truth. Naive, maybe, but now I KNOW I am being lied to on far too many occasions.

    • Ah the good old days hey? The media has always censored stuff or did the Hearsts and Rothschilds always tell the truth?
      The basic facts are that he helped turn over a genocidal lunatic to the authorities. Might he not be a clean as he makes out? Probably. Deals are made everyday with reprehensible people to put even more reprehensible folk with greater influence away for a long time. Most of those in witness protection programmes usually aren't free from the taint of criminality, however if you want evidence on the ring-leaders where else are you going to go?
      Taylor is facing trial and this guy helped put him there. He will face certain death if we deport him. Is this the message wish to send folk who, literally, know where the skeletons are buried?

      • Even Spielberg didn't make Schindler into a Saint for crissakes. The world is a grey and messy place in best of circumstances, and no one comes out of a civil war with clean hands. This called to mind the story of Habtom Kibraeb, which I heard on the Sunday Edition last year, I hope this story doesn't end the same way.

  5. I'm having a little bit of trouble grasping all the facts here. (Mostly because I hadn't read your earlier piece and its information overload.)

    You say the refugee panel is focused on timing. Was Farah with the Washington Post in 2000? Did he attest to you, or to the British agent, that Reeves talked to him at any time in 2000, about evidence and what should be done about it? And can Farah be contacted today by you, our refugee panel, anybody? Is Farah's word itself somehow suspect?

  6. What do we have a refugee determination process for if someone who is obviously and demonstrably under threat of death cannot successfully claim refugee status?

    Why bother with all the delays and lawyers and appeals processes if political appointees can sit in a room and speculate about someone's cuplability in war crimes without proof, and then pass a sentence of death by deportation?

    And by the way, I don't remember Canada signing the UN Convention on Its Okay to Kill People if They Might Have Been War Criminals.

    • Well bloody said my friend. Is he not entitled to any benefit of the doubt?

    • Nor do I see anyone charging him as a war criminal.

      If he was so bad, why don't they charge him? He's clearly a political refugee.

  7. Another brown person that the Harper government refuses to stand up for.

    • There it is!

      At a time when less than 15% of Canadians are following federal politics, you can queak em by.

  8. So why are we deporting him back to Africa? Why not send him back to Holland or Germany, the country from which he came? Can he not ask for that to happen? If he has one more appeal left to him, why doesn't he max out like so many others? Something isn't making sense here.

    (Yes, this dubiously presupposes that to date the hearing processes have all worked flawlessly and reached the allegedly correct conclusion that he is ineligible as a refugee here.)

  9. With all due respect to Macleans, are you saying that the Refugee Board made this decision based on an article they read in a magazine???

    • But that's just it– you'd think the Board would make more information-gathering efforts instead of letting Petrou do all the heavy lifting. This is a bit shocking.

      • Exactly. Hey, Petrou, can we get some responses here?

        I think to many of us you've laid your case out for Reeves well. What we are grappling with is the Refugee Board's decision making process. I don't expect you to advocate on their behalf, and frankly since you ARE advocating for Reeves anything you say regarding the Board must be met with some skepticism, but could you direct us to where we might get more information on the Board and its decision?

        • I'm don't think details of the Board's decision are available to the public at large. The relevant documents were forwarded to me by Reeves. Their case, as I understand it, is that Reeves downplayed his involvement in the guns and diamond trade; that he might have faced prosecution himself had he not cooperated with the Special Court; and that he started working against Taylor late in the game — meaning that most of the work he did for Taylor could not have been to gather evidence against him. There is also an implication that he only turned against Taylor after his wife was arrested and brutalized by Taylor's regime.

          I was not allowed to attend Reeves' hearings, but I can say he never downplayed the role he played smuggling guns and diamonds to me. What he has consistently claimed is that he never personally hurt anyone. I've spent years probing this story. I looked for it, but never found any evidence that Reeves has blood on his hands. Here, I refer to on-the-record comments by David Michael Crane, the Special Court's chief prosecutor at the time, who said he would not have prosecuted Reeves. The Board's allegation to the contrary is a baseless slur.

          I do not know exactly when Reeves turned against Taylor or why — though as I hope I've shown above, the Board's logic as to why it could not have been as early as Reeves claims is flawed, and the lack of independent research they conducted on their own is shameful.

          I should also say that when I first heard Reeves' story years ago, much of it seemed, literally, incredible. The gun running, the secret meetings with British intelligence agents, dodging an assassination squad — it seemed too much for a man who, when I met him, was working at Canadian Tire. And yet as time went by and I was able to double and triple source what Reeves had told me, everything checked out. I have never known him to lie to me.

          Finally, as I said in the post, I don't think when Reeves turned against Taylor is as important as the fact that he did. Reeves can't erase the fact that he worked for Charles Taylor. But I believe he's earned redemption and should be allowed to live in peace with his family.

          • Thank you. And in spite of the fact that I said anything you said about the Board must be met with skepticism, you kind of had me with "available to the public at large" and "I was not allowed to attend Reeves' hearings" because justice must not only be fair, it must be SEEN to be fair. This, obviously, is not.

          • Any indication there's any political interference in this case MP?

  10. Macleans have been backing this pathological liar Cindor Reeves for years. The Special Court of Sierra Leone found out his testimony would not be credible. This is why he was never invited to be a prosecution witness in the Charles Taylor trial.. He did testify in the trial of Gus Kouwenhoven a supposedly gun runner for Mr. Charles Taylor. He stated that he helped Gus Kouwenhoven pack an arms shipment from the seaport of Burkina Basso to Liberia for Mr. Taylor. When the defense showed him a map of Burkina Fasso he saw that the country was land locked. Mr. Kouwenhoven was found not guilty.

    • Interesting!
      Have any publications/links to support this? It would really help the discourse if we had more information.

  11. While we are going to be stuck with the whole Tunisia tyran family for years to come, this guy who got his act together in his young adult years is deported.

    WTF is wrong with this country?

  12. Cindor Reeves carries with him the stigma of treason. Like the followers of William Wallace in Scotland, the followers of Charles Taylor think that their champion would have prevailed in the Liberian civil war, if not for the treasonous actions of somebody that Taylor personally took under his wing. I'm not saying that there's any validity to what Charles Taylor's followers believe, but the fact is that Reeves dealt in blood diamonds to keep a bloody tyrant in power before he switched sides. Many people in Liberia feel about Cindor Reeves the way many people in Canada still feel about Louis Riel.

    • well we wouldn't kill Riel for his political beliefs today.

  13. Thank you Mr. Petrou for writing this article and bringing what would have been a secretive and unknown proceeding to the public's attention. I am not entirely sure which side I fall on, believing of course that people who helped depose dictators should be rewarded but also finding his application for refugee status in Canada very odd in certain ways (not to mention his sketchy record). I am with others on the board wondering why he is being deported to Liberia when he did not come to us from Liberia – why did Europe expel him, when they are usually even more generous to asylum-seekers than Canada? Why are no international forces intervening on his behalf if what Canada is doing is so ridiculous? There may be classified information that provides a compelling reason why Reeves should not be allowed to seek asylum in Canada.

    But whatever the case, this needs to come to light and the government needs to justify itself or reverse its decision. But Reeves can indeed use the appeal process like everyone else. He will be allowed to stay until that is complete.

  14. I am from Liberia and lived through the carnage of Reeves and his brother – in – law's ruthlessness. He boasted those days of his connections to Charles Taylor and together they ran us into hell. According to him, he was a major part of Taylor's gun smuggling ring that murdered more than 250,000 people. I wonder he thinks his life is important than those 250,000. Cooperating with the court to bring his boss to justice is not enough for the families of those 250,000 that they murdered. The prosecutor from the court said he had to evidence to prosecute him, he really did not look for any. I can assure you it will be the easiest thing to do if he ever considers it. Reeves should not be allowed to stay in Canada, let him be allowed to face the families of those they murdered. There are renowned activists who Taylor directly threatened to kill, they have all returned to Liberia and no one has done anything to them. There is an acceptable level of law and order in Liberia, so Reeves should not mislead people about the security situation in Liberia. In fact, he will be better off facing his victims once and for all than be shielded by Canada after committing those atrocities.

    • Would he recieve a fair trial in Liberia today. Even if every thing you say about him is true he should at least face justice and not just vengance. Easy for me to say, but those are Canadian values.

    • Big Justice with all due respect Mr. Cindor Reeves was not one of Charles Taylor's Fighters i'm a Liberian Living in Canada and we here knows that Mr. Reeves helped a lot of us when we were fleeing Liberia i think his only crime was being the Brother in Law of Mr. Taylor and most of us in Mr. Reeves position would never have done what he did to help the International Community to bring Taylor to Justice after they had spent Hundreds of Millions of Dollars through Military means to get Taylor out of Power, I was in Liberia recently and came accross a group of Ex- Taylor's Fighters that asked me about Mr. Cindor Reeves because they knew i was from Canada, Former Taylor's General now Senator of Nimba County Aldolphus Dolo asked me personally if i knew where Mr. Reeves lives in Canada, all of Charles Taylor's supporters knows that Mr. Reeves is the one that got Taylor in Prison and they will never forgive him.
      Mr. Reeves is doomed if Canada returns him to Liberia.

      • Omar,
        If Cindor Reeves was never a fighter then he lied on is asylum or refugee application. Lying is enough grounds for denying his status.

        • Did you read Cindsor Reeves' Refugee Application?

  15. Um, ninth paragraph, second sentence– should that end with Taylor, not Reeves?

    • Yes. Fixed now. Thanks.

  16. Economic refugee?

  17. Jason Kenny's website is now offline, and the contact link does not work

    • I sent him an email – no reply yet. Trudeau's asst. did reply, saying he had passed my letter on for his consideration.

  18. Those are Canadian values – we just didn't always call them that.

  19. how can we donate money to help him fund his appeal?

  20. Cindor Reeves ,C.R. ,C.R. I adviced you not to cooperate with the International Community you didn't listen,you cooperated with them look where it got you ? Me i didnt so tell me whose better????? SNITCHHHHHHHHH you know the price for SNITCHING.

  21. Trudeau and Kenney have shut down their email. This is wrong.