A Zimbabwean couple who served in the army for years are set to be deported from Canada after they lost their appeals.

They have been found to have been complicit in crimes against humanity for their years working together in the Zimbabwe National Army. Richard Tapambwa served in the army for about 20 years; his wife, Stensia Tapambwa, served for about 16 years. Both were promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in the army’s data processing unit.

The couple told Canadian officials that after Richard expressed political views against Mugabe’s ruling party in March 2001, they left Zimbabwe and travelled to the United States, where they lived for more than 10 years without applying for refugee protection.

In 2011, they came to Canada and claimed political asylum. The following year, their claim was denied because the Immigration and Refugee Board found serious reasons to consider they were complicit in crimes against humanity committed by the Zimbabwean army during their military service. The specific allegations against them are not detailed in recent court decisions.

Their request for appeal was denied and they were found not to face a personalised risk to their life or of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if returned to Zimbabwe. Their subsequent appeals continued to delay deportation.

One of the unusual arguments the Tapambwas made was that Richard Tapambwa faced an additional risk of being mistaken for his identical twin brother, if he is sent back to Zimbabwe. His brother, according to court files, was accepted as a refugee in Canada. He fled Zimbabwe after uncovering and threatening to expose a fraud involving his superiors in the Zimbabwean army.

Canadian officials confirmed he has a twin but found it “speculative in nature” that he might possibly become the victim of mistaken identity.