The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled Friday that Senegal must put Chad's former strongman Hissene Habre on trial to face charges of crimes against humanity or extradite him following a demand from Belgium.
AFP - Senegal must put former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre on trial for crimes against humanity or extradite him, the International Court of Justice ruled Friday in answer to a demand from Belgium.
"The court finds, unanimously, that the Republic of Senegal must, without further delay, submit the case of Mr. Hissene Habre to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, if it does not extradite him," the top UN court said in the binding ruling on the request by Belgium to prosecute the 1980s dictator.
Shortly after the verdict Senegal's representative to the ICJ, Cheikh Tidiane Thiam, said talks had already begun between Dakar and the African Union on how to put Habre on trial as soon as possible.
According to a Chadian commission of inquiry, the eight-year Habre regime was responsible for more than 40,000 deaths among political opponents and certain ethnic groups.
Habre has lived in exile in Dakar since he was deposed in 1990 by current President Idriss Deby Itno, a former associate who rebelled against him.
Brussels issued an arrest warrant against Habre in 2005, after a Belgian of Chadian origin filed a complaint against him in 2000 under Belgium's "universal competence" law.
The law allows those accused of crimes under international law that have affected Belgians to be tried in Belgium.
Brussels has since filed several unsuccessful extradition requests to bring Habre to Belgium on charges including crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture.
The court on Friday found by 14 votes to two that "Senegal, by failing to submit the case of Mr. Hissene Habre to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, has breached its obligation" to abide by the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The court recalled that Senegal's failure to adopt until 2007 the legislative measures necessary to institute proceedings against Habre on the basis of universal jurisdiction delayed the implementation of its other obligations under the Convention.
It also stated that Senegal was in breach of its obligation to make a preliminary inquiry into the crimes of torture alleged to have been committed by Habre, as well as of the obligation to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
In failing to comply with its obligations, Senegal has engaged its international responsibility, the court ruled.
"Consequently, Senegal is required to cease this continuing wrongful act, in accordance with general international law on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts."
US-based Human Rights Watch welcomed Thursday's ruling as "a victory for Hissene Habre's victims who have been fighting for 21 years".
"It is a strong message to the new leaders of Senegal that they must act swiftly to fulfil their pledge to bring Habre to justice, the watchdog's Reed Brody said in a statement.
Date created : 2012-07-20