USA: Gulf war deserters and conscientious objectors

According to a CBSNews report on 8 December 2004, the Pentagon says that "more than 5,500 servicemen have deserted since the war started in Iraq". Many of them fled to Canada, as did about 55,000 Vietnam war deserters. However, back then Canada welcomed the US deserters, but the law has changed since, and todays deserters have to convince the Immigration Board that they are refugees.

Some of the deserters will be represented before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board by Toronto lawyer Jeffry House.

His clients will have to prove that, if they are returned to the United States, they wouldn't just be prosecuted for what they did -- they would be also be persecuted. How will House make that claim?

"People should have a right to say, 'I'm not fighting in that war. That's an illegal war. There's illegal stuff going on the ground. I'm not going,'" says House. "And anyone who says soldiers should go to jail if they don't fight in an illegal war is persecuting them."

House's legal strategy will focus on his contention that President Bush is not complying with international law. But how will he defend volunteers who signed a contract?

"The United States is supposed to comply with treaty obligations like the U.N. charter, but they don't," says House. "When the president isn't complying with the Geneva Accords or with the U.N. charter, are we saying, 'Only the soldier who signed up when he was 17 -- that guy has to strictly comply with contract? The president, he doesn't have to?' I don't think so. I don't think that is fair."