Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has rejected granting refugee status to Joshua Key, 32, a deserter from the U.S. army who says he is haunted by atrocities he saw committed by American soldiers in Iraq.
“I find that the claimant is neither a . . . refugee nor a person in need of protection,” ruled Ken Atkinson of the board.
The negative ruling means the Canada Border Services Agency could move to deport Key.
However, he said in a telephone interview that he’s hopeful the federal court of appeal will agree to hear his case, allowing him to stay in Canada.
He said that he still feels things will work out, although the negative decision surprised him.
“Of course, I was optimistic and had high hopes,” he said.
In reaching its decision, the refugee board noted that the U.S. is a democracy, with human rights protections.
“The issue in this application is whether there is a serious possibility that the claimant would be persecuted, if he returned to the USA or that, on a balance of probabilities, he would be subjected personally to a risk to his life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or a danger of torture, if he returned to the USA,” wrote Atkinson.
“I find that there is adequate state protection in the USA and the claimant has not taken all reasonable steps to pursue the available state protection.”
After fleeing to Canada, Key wrote The Deserter’s Tale, a book in which he described seeing two civilians decapitated and their bodies desecrated.
“There were American soldiers kicking the heads around like soccer balls,” Key wrote.
Key told the board he joined the Army after a recruiter told him he would be assigned as a bridge builder and not deployed in combat.
His unit entered Kuwait on April 10, 2003, and within weeks, he was in Ramadi, Iraq, where he said his duties included conducting night-time raids of Iraqi homes in search of weapons.
During these raids, he said, he witnessed several instances of unjustified abuse, unwarranted detention, humiliation and looting by fellow soldiers, much of which was ignored by his superior officers. He said that at other times in Iraq, he witnessed unwarranted physical abuse, including the killing of apparently innocent civilians.
He told the board he was suffering from debilitating nightmares when he returned to the U.S. for a two-week furlough in November 2003, and that he couldn’t shake the feeling that what he was doing in Iraq was morally wrong and unjustifiable.
Key hid out for a time in Philadelphia before fleeing to Canada, where he applied for refugee protection on March 9, 2005
The former first-class private is one of approximately 200 Iraq war resisters believed to have fled to Canada. He now lives in Saskatchewan with his wife and four children