Yesterday Kimberly Rivera (above with son Gabriel at Amnesty International's website) left Canada on the orders of the Stephen Harper government. The Iraq War veteran was haunted by what she saw serving overseas. Yves Engler (iPolitics.ca) reported:
While Rivera expected to spend her time unloading equipment at a Colorado base she soon found herself guarding a foreign operating base in Iraq. It was from this vantage point that she became disillusioned with the war. Riviera was troubled by a two-year-old Iraqi girl who came to the base with her family to claim compensation after a bombing by U.S. forces. “She was just petrified”, Rivera explained. “She was crying, but there was no sound, just tears flowing out of her eyes. She was shaking. I have no idea what had happened in her little life. All I know is I wasn’t seeing her: I was seeing my own little girl. I could imagine my daughter being one of those kids throwing rocks at soldiers, because maybe someone she loved had been killed. That Iraqi girl haunts my soul.’”Rivera had begun to empathize with the millions of Iraqis displaced by the war or whose families lost a loved one. On leave in the U.S. a few months later, Rivera was told she would be re-deployed overseas. Not wanting to participate in a war she now opposed and fearing that her young children might grow up without a mother, she fled north. In February 2007 Rivera and her family applied for refugee status in this country.
And despite the support of Canadians, despite worldwide appeals that Kim be granted asylum, Stephen Harper was more concerned with letting the world know just how heartless and uncaring he is. In less than 12 days, 20,348 people signed on the War Resisters Support Campaign's petition to let Kim and her family stay in Canada. Across Canada this week and on Labor Day, people demonstrated calling for Harper to let Kim stay. Prominent Canadians released a joint-statement:
We the undersigned support conscientious objector Kimerly Rivera and her family who are threatened with imminent deportation from Canada on September 20. Kim deployed to Iraq in 2006 and sought asylum in Canada in 2007. She faces a court martial and up to 5 years in military prison for refusing to participate any longer in the Iraq War -- a war which had no legal sanction. Kim would be separated from her four young children, two of whom were born in Canada. A felony conviction would mean a lifetime of difficulty finding employment. We call on the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kennedy to do the right thing and allow Kimberly Rivera and her family to stay in Canada.
Andy Barrie, broadcaster and Vietnam War resister
Dan Bar-El, award-winning children's author
Maude Barlow, author and activist
Maev Beaty, actor
Shirley Douglas, O.C., actor
Dennis Foon, award-winning writer
Richard Greenblatt, playwright/actor
Ron Hawkins, musician
Naomi Klein, author [child of a Vietnam War resister Michael who went from New Jersey to Montreal in 1967 with his wife Bonnie]
Ron Kovic, author, Born on the Fourth of July
Avi Lewis, filmmaker
Peter Showler, Director, the Refugee Forum, University of Ottawa; former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board
Jack Todd, journalist and Vietnam War resister
Alexandre Trudeau, filmmaker
Others calling for Kim to be allowed to remain in Canada included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the United Steelworkers of Canada, Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees and the United Church of Canada.
Diana Mehta (Canadian Press) reported yesterday, "Kimberly Rivera complied with a deportation order and presented herself at the border at Gananoque, Ont., on Thursday. The War Resisters Support Campaign -- which issued multiple warnings that Ms. Rivera would likely face a court martial and jail time on her return -- said the mother of four was immediately arrested, detained and transferred to U.S. military custody." AP notes, "Ken Marciniec, a spokesman for the War Resisters Support Campaign, said Canadians were told by Kenny’s representatives in court that she wouldn’t be arrested at the border." Press TV quotes War Resisters Support Campaign's Ken Marciniec stating, "It doesn’t get any clearer that this. The risk that we’ve pointed out, of Iraq War resisters being punished as prisoners of conscience, isn’t just risk. It’s fact. Kim’s case today proves that."
The Canadian Press adds, "Rivera was being held in Fort Drum, N.Y., 360 kilometres from Toronto, and was waiting to be transferred to a different military facility where she faces punishment for being absent from her unit, the group said." The War Resisters Support Campaign notes, "Her family, included four minor children, crossed separately. Kimberly did not want her children to have to see her detained by the US military, as this would be traumatic for them." August 31st, Kim held a press conference in Toronto:
Kim Rivera: If you want to know my biggest fear is being separated from my children and having to -- having to sit in a prison for politically being against the war in Iraq which I had experience in. Without that experience, I know that I would not have come to the decision I had made to leave and also be here in Canada for people to know that experience which I had spoken many of. So the only thing that I guess I can really ask is that all of my legal applications that I applied be considered and my agency application also get a decision. That's pretty much all I have.
Hauled off to military 'justice,' her husband Mario left with the four children to raise by himself for who knows how long?
Canada's CTV explored the issues yesterday.
Sarika Sehgal: The first female soldier to seek refuge in Canada has lost her fight to stay and has been deported. Tonight Kimberly Rivera is back on US soil and in US custody. She was detained as soon as she reached the border. Rivera, who is married, has four children. Two of them were born here in this country. She served three months in Iraq but became disillusioned with the war. She came to Canada while on leave in 2007 and eventually sought refugee status. Her application was denied. That decision was later struck down. Today immigration officials again ordered her to leave. Jesse McLaren is a spokesperson with the War Resisters Support Campaign. He joins me now in the studio to discuss this. What is your reaction to what happened with Kimberly?
Jesse McLaren: It's been three things. First of all, we've been amazed by the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera over the past couple of weeks. There's been more than 20,000 signatures on a petition, there's been rallies from coast-to-coast. And this really reaffirms that Canadians want to continue our proud tradition. Now the second thing we've seen is that the government has been actively intervening against that mass support to try and deport war resisters where they are going to be jailed in the US. And so unfortunately today, Kimberly was sent across and despite the reassurances by government lawyers, she was immediately arrested.
Sarika Sehgal: So what happens to her now?
Jesse McLaren: She is going to be subject to court-martial. Previous war resisters who were deported by the Harper government were given disproprotionately harsh sentences because they spoke out in Canada so that amounts to persecution. So that is a fate that potentially awaits her but we already know she's already being punished. She's been deported from her new country. She's been separated from her family. And she's now been arrested. And that is at the behest of the Harper government.
Sarika Sehgal: Now you're saying separated from her family because two of her kids were born here in Canada, right?
Jesse McLaren: Her entire family has gone back to the US.
Sarika Sehgal: Oh. They left. Okay. What -- how common is this? War resisters or people being deported back?
Jesse McLaren: So there's dozens, even perhaps hundreds of war resisters in Canada. They have the support of the majority of Canadians, of two motions of Parliament, of international law, of Canadian tradition and the Harper government has already departed two: Robin Long and Clifford Cornell. Robin was also separated from his family -- from his Canadian-born son. And they were given harsh jail sentences. Much harsher than the majority of people who left the armed forces and those sentences were harsh because they spoke out in Canada.
Sarika Sehgal: What is the government saying or responding? How are they responding?
Jesse McLaren: The government claims to not be involved but in fact Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has a strong record. Firstly, he labeled war resisters bogus refugee claimants and the Canadian Council of Refugees clearly was dismissive of that and claimed that that provided evidence of the strong appearance political interference. Second of all, he's actually institutionalized his own personal ideological beliefs with what's called Operational Bulletin 202. And this is basically an instructive where he's told immigration officials to flag all US Iraq War resisters as "criminally inadmissiable" even though they refused to be criminally involved in the war in Iraq. And Amnesty International and the former chair of the Refugee Board have spoken out against Operational Bulletin 202, saying that it mistates the law and seeks to intrude on the independence of immigration. And finally, just this week, his lawyers claimed that the risk of Kimberly being arrested was merely speculative where in fact we have proof today that she was arrested just as we'd feared.
Sarika Sehgal: Okay, thanks so much for joining us.
Jesse McLaren: Thanks.
Amnesty International issued the following:
Amnesty International is dismayed that today the Federal Court of Canada denied the motion to stop the removal of Kimberly Rivera, pending the outcome of her Humanitarian and Compassionate application to remain in Canada. Kimberly has been ordered leave Canada for the United States on Thursday 20 September. It is expected that Ms. Rivera will be detained upon arrival in the USA, transferred to military control, court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to serve in the U.S. military on grounds of conscience. Amnesty International considers Kimberly Rivera to be a conscientious objector, and as such would consider her to be a prisoner of conscience should she be detained for military evasion, upon arrival in the United States. Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars. The law of the United States only recognizes the right to conscientious objection where a person forms an opposition to war in any form.
Full TextAmnesty International is dismayed that today the Federal Court of Canada denied the motion to stop the removal of Kimberly Rivera, pending the outcome of her Humanitarian and Compassionate application to remain in Canada. Kimberly has been ordered leave Canada for the United States on Thursday 20 September. It is expected that Ms. Rivera will be detained upon arrival in the USA, transferred to military control, court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to serve in the U.S. military on grounds of conscience.
Amnesty International considers Kimberly Rivera to be a conscientious objector, and as such would consider her to be a prisoner of conscience should she be detained for military evasion, upon arrival in the United States.
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars. The law of the United States only recognizes the right to conscientious objection where a person forms an opposition to war in any form.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for their beliefs as a conscientious objector, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International believes that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Kimberly Rivera formed an understanding of her position as a conscientious objector over a period of time while she was deployed in Iraq. At one point her convictions caused her to stop carrying her rifle while on duty in Iraq.
Amnesty International has followed the cases of multiple U.S. soldiers who have objected to military service on grounds of conscience since the U.S. led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Amnesty International has observed multiple U.S. soldiers who maintain principled objections to military service imprisoned solely on the basis of their beliefs. Some soldiers have been imprisoned despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, some have been imprisoned after their applications for conscientious objector status have been wrongly refused, other soldiers have been deployed to combat zones despite pending applications for conscientious objector status.
AP, as noted above, covers the arrest. Dan Burns covered it for Reuters, BBC covers it, RT covers it, most people have ignored it or 'covered' it by running with AP or Reuters.
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Adam Kokesh and the Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and this morning:
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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