August 15, 2008
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATORS INVESTIGATIONS
"ICE will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who have come to our country in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for the crimes they have committed against others. We will not relent in our efforts to ensure that human rights violators are brought to justice and removed from our communities."
Statement of Ms. Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on April 02, 2007; following the arrests of three notorious human rights violators from Peru and Argentina.
Many human rights violators, alleged to have committed crimes ranging from religious persecution to genocide, have sought refuge in the United States in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for the crimes they have committed in their home countries. These human rights violators are not admissible as refugees into the United States under the provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actively seeks to identify and remove these individuals in order to deny them safe-haven in the United States. Even beyond these statutory issues, the presence of such violators in the United States tarnishes the long-held commitment of our nation to provide safety and sanctuary for the tens of thousands of victims of war crimes, religious or ethnic persecution, torture, and other human rights abuses who seek refuge here on a yearly basis.
To identify and remove war crimes suspects and human rights violators from the United States, ICE maintains two complementary units to target foreign human rights violators:
The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWC), which has national oversight over investigations of individuals alleged to have committed crimes such as genocide, war crimes, torture, suppression of religious freedom and persecution; and
The Human Rights Law Division (HRLD), which provides legal and litigation support to the effort to remove human rights violators.
Because these offenders seek to blend into our society (often among those whom they persecuted), there is no precise method where their numbers can be accurately estimated. Regardless, these cases represent an investigative priority for ICE, in part, based on the gravity of their crimes abroad. As of July 2008, ICE has over 150 active investigations and is pursing over 1,000 leads and removal cases involving suspects from approximately 85 different countries. These cases are predominantly focused on Central and South America, Haiti, the Balkans, and Africa, and represent cases in various stages of investigation, prosecution, or removal proceedings.
ICE Combined Authorities
In pursuing foreign war crimes or human rights abuse suspects, ICE is uniquely situated to employ it combined authorities under both U.S. Criminal Law and U.S. Immigration Law. Under existing Federal criminal statutes, where the United States can exercise jurisdiction over the actual foreign offenses (such as Torture or Genocide), we work with our partners in the U.S. Department of Justice to seek such charges. Where we cannot exercise such jurisdiction, we pursue criminal charges related to false statements and material representations on refugee, visa, resident, or citizenship applications made by these offenders. Where substantial monetary assets based on an offender’s human rights abuses or war crimes are identified in our jurisdiction, ICE seeks to use its authorities to undertake the seizure of such assets. In addition to these wide-ranging criminal remedies, ICE uses its authority under U.S. Immigration Law in order to undertake the arrest, detention, and ultimate removal or deportation of these individuals to their home jurisdiction, so that they may ultimately face justice before the people they victimized.
As the primary investigatory agency for these offenses within the United States, ICE helps direct the broader USG wide effort to identify, prosecute, and remove these individuals from our shores. Our key partners include the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, as well as the United States Attorney’s Offices nationwide; the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. ICE also has a global footprint on these issues as well. Through our ICE Attaché Offices in over 39 countries, we maintain partnerships with a variety of foreign law enforcement organizations or judicial bodies who share our goals with respect to identifying and prosecuting serious human rights abusers. Finally, ICE maintains close contacts with a number of international or regional organizations who are active in this same effort, to include INTERPOL, the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Protecting the Integrity of Our Immigration Laws
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, aliens who “…ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in” persecution are barred from gaining admission into the United States as a refugee, from obtaining asylum status or from obtaining a Temporary Protected Status. These aliens are, however, potentially eligible to enter the United States on other grounds, and to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence or even obtain citizenship. As part of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), Congress addressed this issue. Section 5501 of the IRTPA amended the INA to include participation in torture or extrajudicial killings as grounds of inadmissibility and deportability. Further, Congress made this provision of the INA retroactive, so that human rights violators who had previously been granted legal status in the United States could now face having that status revoked in immigration court. ICE quickly moved to implement this change in law, using it as the grounds to successfully deport a former Ethiopian army officer who was directly involved in torturing suspected political opponents under the repressive Mengistu Regime.
In the past year, ICE has directed the successful apprehension, conviction, or removal of notorious human rights abusers or war criminals. Highlights include the arrest, conviction, and removal of Ernesto Barreiro, who is accused by Argentina of being the chief interrogator at the infamous La Perla detention center during the so-called “Dirty War;” the arrest and conviction of Telmo Ricardo Hurtado-Hurtado, a former Peruvian army officer who directed the massacre of 69 villagers in Accomarca, Peru in August 1985; and the removal Gonzalo Guervara Cerritos, a former lieutenant in the notorious Atlacatl Battalion of the El Salvador Armed Forces, and a direct participant in the murder of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador in November 1989.
ICE has also sought to prevent known human rights abusers from gaining entry into the United States. A major success was the interdiction of Isaac Kamali, who is listed in the top one-third of Rwanda’s ninety-three major genocide suspects. Kamali, who was traveling on a French passport, was identified and prevented from entering the United States at the Philadelphia International Airport. Upon returning to Paris, he was taken into custody by French judicial authorities pending extradition to Rwanda.
Finally, ICE played a key role in effecting justice for human rights abusers in their home jurisdictions. Two separate proceedings before the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina involve suspects who were previously located and arrested by ICE in the United States and who were returned back to that country to face trial for their potential involvement in war crimes. Both cases (Prosecutor v. Milorad Trbic and the Prosecutor v. Bozic, et al) involve allegations of participation in the mass-murder of over 5,000 Bosnian-Muslim men and boys following the capture of the United Nations designated safe-area of Srebrenica in July 1995 by military forces under the command of Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladic. Milorad Trbic was the Deputy Chief of Security of the Zvornik Infantry Brigade in July 1995—and was previously arrested by ICE in North Carolina. Zdravko Bozic and Mladen Blagojevic were military police officers in the Bratunac Infantry Brigade in July 1995—and were arrested by ICE in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Human rights violators represent the worst of humanity. ICE is committed to dedicating the resources necessary to investigate, present for prosecution, and remove from the U.S. those individuals who have participated in these atrocities in order to ensure that the United States does not become a safe haven for human rights violators.”
Statement of Ms. Marcy M. Forman,