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Africa

Senegal not obligated to detain Habre until trial, UN court says

Latest update : 2009-05-28

The UN court at The Hague rejected a Belgian request to force Senegal to detain Chad's former dictator Hissene Habre until his trial for torturing and killing opponents. The court said it was satisfied Habre would not be allowed to leave the country.

AFP - The UN's highest court dismissed a Belgian bid Thursday to force Senegal to keep former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre under surveillance until he is tried for torturing and killing opponents.

"The risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Belgium is not apparent," ruled judge Hisashi Owada of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Belgium had asked the court in April to compel Senegal to keep Habre -- whose 1980s regime was marred by widespread rights abuses -- in its custody, but the court said it was satisfied with Dakar's assurances that it had no intention of letting him go.

Belgian lawyers had argued that Habre was likely to go into hiding if Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade carried out reported threats to lift his house arrest unless funds required for a trial are found.

Belgium issued an international warrant for Habre's arrest in September 2005 after several alleged victims of his regime filed complaints in Belgian courts.

Brussels then lodged a case against Senegal in the ICJ in February to compel it to prosecute the ex-president or to extradite him to Belgium for trial.

Pending that decision, which could take several years, Belgium also asked the court in April to issue provisional measures to force Senegal it to keep Habre under surveillance.

Dismissing that bid on Thursday, Owada noted that Senegal "gave a formal assurance on several occasions during the hearings that it will not allow Mr Habre to leave its territory before the court has given its final decision."

Habre was toppled from power in 1990 and fled to Senegal after an eight-year reign during which thousands of his political opponents, their family members, and members of certain ethnic groups, were allegedly tortured and killed.

An official truth commission report in 1992 accused Habre's regime of having committed some 40,000 political murders.

The ICJ settles disputes between states and does not try individuals.

Date created : 2009-05-28