Senegal committed to Habre trial

2012-03-17 08:19

The Hague - Senegal told the United Nations' highest court on Friday that it is committed to putting former Chad president Hissene Habre on trial, countering Belgium's claim that Dakar has done nothing to prosecute one of Africa's most notorious dictators.

The tug of war at the International Court of Justice between Belgium and Senegal over the right to try Habre is the latest battle in more than two decades of legal wrangling since he was ousted from power in 1990 and sought refuge in Dakar.

Belgium indicted Habre in 2005 on charges including crimes against humanity and torture, based on complaints by survivors of his brutal eight-year rule who had grown frustrated at Senegal's failure to try him.

Brussels is now asking the world court to order Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habre, based on its obligations under an international torture convention.

Senegal lawyers said on Friday the case is unnecessary because Dakar is working toward putting Habre on trial and argued that the world court has no jurisdiction to intervene.

The leader of Senegal's delegation to the world court, Cheikh Tidiane Thiam, said his country is "taking appropriate measures and steps to prepare for the trial of Mr Habre."

Discussions over how and where to prosecute him have been dragging on for years and have turned Habre into a symbol of Africa's inability to try alleged war criminals from the continent.

Lawyer Abdoulaye Dianko said on Friday Senegal indicted Habre in 2000 but the indictment was later dismissed. Six years later, the African Union called on Senegal to "try Habre for Africa and on African soil", Dianko said.

In 2010, the Economic Community of West African States urged Senegal to set up an ad hoc international tribunal to try Habre, further complicating and delaying moves to bring him to trial.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, Habre seized power in 1982 and swiftly established a brutal dictatorship to stamp out any opposition. He was finally toppled by current Chad President Idriss Deby in 1990.

A Chadian commission of inquiry concluded Habre's regime killed and tortured tens of thousands of political opponents.

Judges in The Hague are expected to take months to reach a decision. World court rulings are final and legally binding.

- AP
Read more on:    hrw  |  hissene habre  |  chad  |  senegal  |  central africa  |  west africa  |  war crimes

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