U.S. deserter fears 'social persecution'
By MARINA JIMÉNEZ, Globe and Mail (Toronto), 9 December 2004

A U.S. Army deserter seeking asylum in Canada said he will face ''social persecution'' if he is sent back to the United States and believes he is within his legal right to refuse to fight in the Iraqi war because he does not want to commit atrocities.

As his three-day refugee hearing wrapped up yesterday, Jeremy Hinzman told reporters he believes his case went well and is hopeful Canada will declare him a refugee.

"We established the atrocities are not merely anomalous but part of a system, and that as an infantryman, I could have taken part in them," said the 26-year-old former paratrooper, who could be imprisoned in the United States for desertion. "It wouldn't be a rosy experience in military prison . . . but after being released from jail, the chances of obtaining a job would be slim. The climate in the U.S. is hostile to dissent."

Mr. Hinzman deserted the 82nd Airborne Division in January, 2004, and fled to Toronto with his wife and two-year-old son after his application for conscientious-objector status was rejected.

Immigration and Refugee Board member Brian Goodman has said he would not consider testimony about the legality of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq but would consider international condemnation of how the war was conducted.

Jeffry House, Mr. Hinzman's lawyer, acknowledged that the refugee claim is a difficult one. He argued that to prosecute someone for refusing to participate in a war in which atrocities were committed is tantamount to persecution. "Mr. Hinzman had a right not to participate."

Mr. Hinzman's claim is considered a test case. There are three other refugee claims from U.S. Army deserters that will be heard after the decision has been issued in the Hinzman case, expected in February of 2005.

In recent years, U.S. Army deserters have been treated leniently, serving one-year sentences in military prisons on average, according to a lawyer for the Canadian government, which is intervening in the case.

Canada has given refuge to army deserters from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and other countries with conscription, but never to soldiers who volunteered.

If Mr. Hinzman's claim is rejected, he could appeal to the Federal Court of Canada and could file an application to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds.

A former U.S. Marine testified at the hearing yesterday about alleged atrocities, saying his superiors ignored his objections about the killing of Iraqi civilians and other violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Jimmy Massey, a 12-year-veteran and former staff sergeant, said some U.S. Marines became paranoid and trigger-happy by exaggerated intelligence reports about Iraqi suicide bombers.

They treated civilians who failed to stop their cars at military checkpoints as enemy combatants, in clear violation of the rules of war, he said.

"I told them [my superiors] I am not an assassin. The Marine Corps I work for does not kill innocent civilians."

He acknowledged he was tormented about participating in the "murder" of more than 30 unarmed men, women and children who drove through military checkpoints in and around Baghdad in April of 2003.

"I knew in my heart these vehicles were civilians, but I had to act on orders given. I saw plenty of Marines become psychopaths . . . they enjoyed killing."

He said he tried without success to bring to his superiors' attention his concern about such killings. When he went to a division psychiatrist in May of 2003, he was told to request conscientious-objector status.

"There is a blackball system within the military if you file a C.O. petition; you're giving yourself a death sentence. I've known Marines who have been beaten, harassed and sexually assaulted."   


Former Marine Testifies to Atrocities in Iraq
Unit Killed Dozens of Unarmed Civilians Last Year, Canadian Refugee Board Is Told
By Doug Struck Washington, Post Foreign Service, Wednesday, December 8, 2004

TORONTO, Dec. 7 -- A former U.S. Marine staff sergeant testified at a hearing Tuesday that his unit killed at least 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq during the war in 2003 and that Marines routinely shot and killed wounded Iraqis.

Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the "killing of innocent civilians," but that nothing was done.

Massey, 33, of Waynesville, N.C., was the chief witness at a refugee board hearing for a U.S. Army deserter, Jeremy Hinzman, who is attempting to win asylum in Canada after he fled from Fort Bragg, N.C., rather than go to Iraq. Hinzman, 25, the first of at least three U.S. military deserters to apply for asylum here, argues that he refused to go to Iraq to avoid committing war crimes.

In Washington, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon said Massey's charges had been investigated and were unproved.

"We take such allegations very seriously," said Maj. Douglas Powell. "And Jimmy Massey, who is a former staff sergeant, out of the Corps, has made these statements before in the press. They've been looked into, and nothing has been substantiated."

Massey is a former Marine recruiter who served in Iraq as the staff sergeant for a platoon that ranged from 25 to 50 men. He testified that the killings occurred in late March or early April 2003 as his unit, the weapons company of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, moved northward to Baghdad and then beyond.

During one 48-hour period, Massey said under oath, his platoon set up roadblocks and killed "30-plus" civilians. He said his men, fearing suicide bombers, poured massive firepower into cars that did not stop as they approached the roadblocks. In each instance, he said, none of the cars was found to have contained explosives or arms.

"Why didn't the Iraqis stop? That is something that has plagued me every waking moment of the day," he said. He said they may have been confused by the Americans' gestures or thought that a warning shot was celebratory gunfire.

"I don't know if the Iraqi people thought we were celebrating their newfound freedom. But I do know we killed innocent civilians," Massey said. In one case, the driver of a car leaped out with his hands up. "But we kept firing. We killed him," Massey said. In another case, he and other Marines shot and killed four protesters near a checkpoint after a single incoming gunshot from an unknown source, he said. None of the protesters was found with arms.

The testimony of Massey, who was honorably discharged six months after his medical evacuation from Iraq, is the main surviving thrust of the strategy by Hinzman's attorney to put the Iraq war on trial at the refugee hearing. The asylum bids by Hinzman and two other servicemen are a dilemma for the Canadian government, which is seeking to repair relations with the Bush administration. Canada refused to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the war remains highly unpopular in Canada.

The government won a ruling that the legality of the Iraq war could not be an issue at the refugee hearing. But Hinzman's attorney, Jeffry House, has introduced testimonials and human rights reports to support Hinzman's claim that he would have been forced to violate the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

Some of Hinzman's supporters, including House, are Vietnam-era draft dodgers. They compare Massey's testimony to the disclosure of the My Lai massacre of civilians in Vietnam.

Hinzman, who served a tour in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division, had applied for a transfer to a noncombat position in the Army. When that was rejected and his division was ordered to Iraq, Hinzman drove from Fort Bragg to Canada in January with his wife and infant son.

The family is living in a basement apartment in Toronto while their request is heard. If it is rejected, Hinzman has said, they expect to file appeals in the Canadian courts.

Staff writer Christopher Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

U.S. army killed unarmed Iraqis in defiance of law, war-dodger hearing told
By Colin Perkel, Canadian Press, Wednesday, December 08, 2004

TORONTO (CP) - A former United States marine told a refugee hearing for an American war dodger Tuesday that trigger-happy U.S. soldiers in Iraq routinely killed unarmed woman and children, and murdered other Iraqis in violation of international law.

In chilling testimony intended to bolster the asylum claim of compatriot Jeremy Hinzman, former staff sergeant Jimmy Massey recounted how nervous soldiers trained to believe that all Iraqis were potential terrorists often opened fire indiscriminately.

"I was never clear on who the enemy was," Massey, 33, told the hearing. "If you have no enemy or you do not know who the enemy is, what are you doing there?"

On several occasions, his soldiers pumped hundreds of bullets into cars that failed to stop at U.S. military checkpoints, killing all occupants - who were later found to be unarmed, Massey said.

On another occasion, marines reacted to a stray bullet by killing a small group of unarmed protesters and bystanders, said Massey, who said he suffers from nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I was deeply concerned about the civilian casualties," he said.

"What they were doing was committing murder."

Massey's statements echoed earlier testimony from Hinzman, who says he fled the U.S. military because he believed the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and any violent acts he committed there would be unconscionable.

"This was a criminal war," Hinzman said.

"Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity."

Hinzman, 26, deserted his regiment in January just days before being deployed to Iraq, and fears he will be unfairly court-martialled if returned to the United States.

Hinzman told the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing that the U.S. military regarded all Arabs in the Middle East - Iraqis in particular - as potential terrorists to be eliminated.

"We were referring to these people as savages," Hinzman testified.

"It fosters an attitude of hatred that gets your blood boiling."

While a federal government lawyer said U.S. deserters often get about a year in jail, Hinzman countered he would be treated more harshly because of his views on the Iraq war.

"Serving even one day in prison for refusing to comply with an illegal order is too long," Hinzman said.

"I would be prosecuted for acting upon a political belief . . . for refusing to do something that was wrong."

A Washington Post reporter covering the hearings said Americans are extremely sensitive to Hinzman's request for asylum because of parallels to the Vietnam War.

"There's a great deal of worry that Iraq is beginning to look a little like Vietnam," said Doug Struck.

"Americans are very worried when their servicemen start saying, 'No, we're not going to go.' It sends alarms off."

Hinzman, whose only prior knowledge of Canada came from CBC radio broadcasts, admitted it is seemingly "preposterous" for an American to seek asylum in Canada.

He said he chose to go public with his claim to head off any possibility of being quietly sent home.

"I felt that (Canadian) authorities could say, 'You are an American. What the hell are you doing? Go back.' "

Hinzman's lawyer, Jeffry House, said Canada has allowed deserters from other countries to stay and compared Hinzman's situation to that of the former Soviet Union.

"People used to be prosecuted for their political opinions and activities," House said in an interview.

"That was persecution. It is fundamentally wrong."

Hinzman enlisted voluntarily for four years in November 2000. He was a crack infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C., until he deserted after his application as a conscientious objector failed. Brian Goodman, who is chairing the three-day hearing that ends Wednesday, indicated he will likely decide Hinzman's claim early in the new year.