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Senegal calls off extradition of Hissene Habre to Chad

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-07-11

Bowing to international pressure, Senegal decided on Sunday not to extradite Chad's former president, Hissene Habre (pictured), back to his own country, where he has been sentenced to death in absentia for crimes against humanity.

 
AP - Under international pressure Senegal reversed course and called off the extradition of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre on Sunday. The decision came hours before Habre was to be deported to Chad.
 
The former ruler of Chad has become a symbol of impunity in Africa, living freely in Senegal for over 20 years despite an indictment on charges of crimes against humanity for the torture of hundreds of his opponents.
 
“We have suspended the extradition of Hissene Habre following the request of (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) Navi Pillay,” Senegal’s Foreign Minister Madicke Niang announced on state TV late Sunday.
 
For years Senegal has been criticized for dragging its feet and not bringing Habre to trial, even though he was indicted by a Senegalese judge and the country’s laws were amended so that he could face be tried here. Last week the African Union issued a strongly worded decision telling Senegal to either try him, or extradite him.
 
But when the government unexpectedly announced on Friday that they planned to send Habre back to Chad this Monday, there was an outcry. Chad’s government expressed surprise, saying they had not been consulted.
 
And victims’ groups as well as human rights advocates worried the trial in his home country would be a sham since he has already been sentenced to death in absentia by a Chadian court.
 
Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch who has worked for over a decade to bring Habre brought to justice, said he was glad that Senegal has called off the transfer, which he called ill-advised.
 
“But it can’t be a pretext to continue shielding Habre from justice. After 20 years his victims have a right to their day in court,” he said by email.
 
Victims say they hope he will be tried in Belgium which has asked for his extradition. Belgium’s foreign ministry issued a statement over the weekend, saying it deplored Senegal’s unwillingness to respect the international tribunal in the Hague and reiterated its request to have him extradited to Belgium.

Date created : 2011-07-10

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