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In preparing my thesis, I endeavoured to accurately attribute all ideas and direct quotations contained in it. I would appreciate the same courtesy from all individuals who use my work.


This thesis examines the distinction between legitimate criminal prosecution and persecution in the law of refugee status. It argues that, as a general rule, individuals whose claims are based on conduct analogous to that of a political offender (as defined in extradition law) meet the 1951 Convention refugee definition. The principled and pragmatic reasons for using this analogy to analyze certain categories of refugee claims are outlined. Primarily, the political offender analogy provides decision-makers with principled and nuanced criteria for distinguishing criminal from political conduct and focuses their attention on the context in which a claimant's offence was committed.


During the initial year of my studies at York, I was fortunate to receive the Jacqueline Greatbach Memorial Fellowship administered jointly by Osgoode Hall Law School and the Centre for Refugee Studies. Without this valuable financial support, I would have been unable to undertake graduate studies.

May people were instrumental in the successful completion of this thesis. My supervisor, Professor William Angus, was patient and supportive, meticulous in correcting early drafts, and went beyond the call of duty by inviting me to family gatherings. His wife Anne and family were a warm and welcoming substitute for my own family on such occasions.

Professor James C Hathaway, both a member of my supervisory committee and my 'boss' in the Law Unit at the Centre for Refugee Studies, gave me work that helped pay the rent, was challenging and stimulating, and broadened my understanding of legal responses to the plight of refugees. His willingness to share his thoughts and writing, and to listen to my opinions, was invaluable.

Professor Reg Whitaker (a member of my supervisory committee), Professor Balfour Halévy (Dean's representative), and Richard Stainsby (external examiner) made my oral defense an enjoyable experience through their careful reading of my thesis and thoughtful questioning.

I would like to thank York University's Centre for Refugee Studies for providing me with many of the necessities of life (an office, a computer, a telephone) and a pleasant, stimulating work environment. Several of my colleagues at the Centre deserve special mention, in particular (but not exclusively), Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey, Michael Barutciski, John Dent, Leanne MacMillan, Kurt Mills, Alex Neve, Barbara Treviranus and Len Wong. Michael, John and Alex read and corrected several chapters of the thesis and Leanne assisted with earlier papers.

Without my family's financial and moral support, my studies would not have been possible. My colleagues in the Graduate program and Toronto buddies also provided valuable support and friendship. Finally, I would like to thank Rodger Haines who first introduced me to refugee law, and Rick Brown whose encouragement was instrumental in convincing me to consider graduate studies in Canada.