Immigration and Refugee Board member Brian Goodman's reasons for rejecting U.S. army deserter Jeremy Hinzman's application for refugee status.
On Hinzman's claim that he's a conscientious objector
Goodman found Hinzman's position on this issue "inherently contradictory. While Hinzman believes the war in Iraq to be illegal and unjust, Goodman points out that he was prepared to serve in a non-combatant role as a medic. Hinzman also indicated in his testimony that he would be prepared to repel an enemy attack by force, but not to participate in offensive actions in Iraq. "Surely, Goodman reasoned, "an intelligent young man like Mr. Hinzman who believed the war in Iraq to be... waged for economic reasons would be unwilling to participate in any capacity, whether combatant or non-combatant. Goodman noted that alternative roles are offered in the U.S military for objectors, and then went on to rule that "Hinzman's failure to pursue further his quest for conscientious objector status [after it had been rejected by his U.S. commanders]... as well as his resumption of regular infantryman activities, constitutes conduct that is inconsistent with his claim to be a genuine conscientious objector."
On Hinzman's claim that he would be persecuted if returned to the U.S.
Goodman noted that the Federal Court of Appeal has established that a person claiming refugee protection from the U.S. must establish that "exceptional circumstances exist in his case, "such that one would be left to assume that a fair and independent judicial process wold not occur. Goodman ruled that Hinzman failed to table "clear and convincing evidence that the penalty awaiting him in the U.S. - likely one to five years in prison - amounts to cruel or unusual punishment. Or that Hinzman "would not be accorded the full protection of the law pursuant to the court martial process. Goodman went on to say that Hinzman's failure on this point proved "fatal to his case.
On Hinzman's religious convictions
The United Nations High Commission For Refugees Handbook states that if the religious beliefs of a claimant are genuine and are not taken into account by his country in requiring him to perform military service, then a claim of refugee status could be successfully argued. The handbook goes on to say that a person is clearly not a refugee if his only reason for desertion is his dislike of military service. Goodman found that Hinzman's decision to desert was precipitated less by his religious beliefs (he does not consider himself either a Buddhist, though he practises meditation, or a Quaker, though he attends services) than by the birth of his son.
On Hinzman's claim that he would be forced to participate in military atrocities in Iraq
Again, Goodman invoked the UNHCR Handbook, noting that forcing someone to participate in a "military action... condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct... [could] in itself be regarded as persecution. Despite a report from Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting dozens of civilian deaths under "questionable circumstances (including some that involved Hinzman's former regiment), Goodman ruled that Hinzman failed to show that the U.S. has, "either as a matter of deliberate policy or official indifference, required or allowed its combatants to engage in widespread actions in violation of humanitarian law.