A federal Canadian court in Ottawa, Ontario, has affirmed the decision of the Immigration Department to deny a former operative of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria police entry into the North American country.
In what highlights how far the ripples of the atrocities of the defunct notorious police unit have travelled globally, the foreign government had rejected Olushola Popoola solely on the grounds that he used to be an operative of SARS.
Revealing the foreign government’s damning position on SARS that may smear all its former operatives intending to travel to Canada, the court upheld the findings of the immigration department to the effect that “the Nigerian Police Force, and the SARS in particular, have committed crimes against humanity from 2002 to 2015”.
The judge, Sébastien Grammond, delivering judgment on Mr Popoola’s case, held that by merely handing over suspects “to the criminal investigation department” despite knowing that they “would be subject to human rights violations,” the applicant without necessarily participating directly in the SARS’ crimes had made “a significant contribution” to the unit’s atrocities.
The judge ruled, “The main part of the ID’s decision is devoted to the issue of whether Mr Popoola made a knowing and significant contribution to the SARS’s criminal activity.
“A finding that Mr Popoola engaged in crimes against humanity does not require proof that he personally tortured detainees — which he denies. Rather, his contribution to the organization’s crimes must be assessed according to the test laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ezokola v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 SCC 40,  2 SCR 678 [Ezokola].
“In this regard, the ID considered that Mr Popoola voluntarily joined the Nigerian Police Force; that he spent five years with the SARS, a unit known for being especially brutal; that he admitted knowing about the prevalence of torture and mistreatment of detainees in the organization, although he tried to minimise its scope in his testimony; and that he resigned for personal reasons, not because he learned of human rights abuses. As to his contribution to the organisation’s crimes, the ID concluded as follows:
“Since Mr Popoola reasonably knew that when he was a member of the SARS the suspects he handed over to the criminal investigation department would be subject to human rights violations, the tribunal finds this to be a significant contribution to the criminal purpose of the organization since he had the knowledge of what could befall the individual subject to investigation.”
The court in the judgment delivered on April 8, dismissed Mr Popoola’s application for a review of the Immigration Department’s decision to deny him entry into Canada.