A B.C. man accused of committing war crimes in Croatia will be allowed to remain in Canada.

An immigration and refugee board panel says that Josip Budimcic may have been present while atrocities were committed during the Balkans war, but he was not a perpetrator.

The federal government had applied to have Budimcic stripped of his refugee status based on allegations that he withheld information about his war activities when he applied for refugee status in 1995.

Budimcic, who has lived on Salt Spring Island with his wife and children since 2003, told CTV he was working as a military mechanic in 1991 -- the same time a Croatian court says he was torturing and killing prisoners of war.

He says he was only a day labourer and a mechanic, without weapons or even a uniform.

But witnesses told a Croatian court that Budimcic was a member of the Serbian paramilitary police, guilty of war crimes during the same period.

The Public Safety Ministry presented evidence at a refugee board hearing in December 2007 that Budimcic was convicted in absentia in a Croatian court for war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

But the refugee board panel found that while Budimcic, a Serb married to a Croatian woman, may have been present while the acts were committed, the situation was beyond his control.

The panel upheld Budimcic's refugee status and he will be allowed to remain in Canada.