The tribunal officer assigned by the Immigration and Refugee Board to the case of Cindor Reeves, former brother-in-law of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, judged him to be a credible witness whose exclusion from refugee protection in Canada would be “morally questionable.”
A tribunal officer is an IRB employee whose role “is not to oppose, or to support, the refugee claim, but to help ensure that all relevant information is before the member to decide the claim.” In his written observations of the case, Richard Henderson argued against excluding Reeves from refugee protection because of his alleged involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity:
“A restrictive or narrow interpretation of the exclusion clauses is particularly warranted in this case, not just because, as I will suggest in the next section, Mr. Reeves would be in extreme danger should he return to Liberia, but also because it is precisely Mr. Reeves’ involuntary and minor involvement in the weapons for diamonds trade that allowed him to gather the kind of ‘high value’ intelligence that played a key role in ultimately bringing down Charles Taylor. To exclude him because of this involvement would seem to be both morally questionable, a sentiment expressed in the Maclean’s articles, and inconsistent with the intent of the exclusion clauses, i.e. they were surely not meant to exclude individuals who were, in effect, acting as double agent.”
Reeves’ refugee case is different than most because the Canadian government — through the minister for public safety — intervened to argue against his appeal for refugee protection.
The written submission by Brenda Lloyd, counsel for the minister, is flawed. Notably she casts doubts on Reeves’ claim that he met with a U.S. embassy official in Burkina Faso in 1997 because this detail does not appear in media reports about Reeves. Lloyd does not know what Reeves told journalists; she knows what has been published. There is no evidence Lloyd attempted to contact the official herself to ask him.
Lloyd argues that Reeves distanced himself from Taylor only after Reeves’ safety was at risk — in other words, she says his motives were not altruistic. In fact, what is most remarkable about Reeves’ actions are that he remained close to Taylor when it was most risky for him to do so, pretending to reconcile with Taylor in 2001 so that he could gather information for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence branch.
Despite this, and despite the role Reeves’ played in brining to justice one of recent history’s most blood stained tyrants, Joanne Sajtos, panel member for the IRB, ruled against Reeves, setting the stage for his deportation to Liberia, where he risks being murdered by those still loyal to the dictator he helped depose.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney reappointed Sajtos to a four-year term on the IRB last February. Reeves is appealing her decision at the Federal Court.