Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Senegal charged to court for feet dragging

Habre is accused of committing crime against humanity...
Former Chadian leader, Hissene Habre has been in a long-standing stumped extradition to Belgium where he would stand trial on allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. 

Habre has been living in exile in Senegal since 1992, the year a truth commission report in Chad said he presided over up to 40,000 political and ethnic-related murders.

In June 2011, Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade announced that his government is ready to extradite Mr. Habre, apparently to shift away international concerns on his country’s democratic setback when he attempted to change the electoral laws. 

The announcement that Habre will be extradited followed widespread violent protests in Senegal over an unsuccessful attempt by Mr. Wade to adopt the “first past the post system” of voting (simple majority).  

The Republic of Senegal has been dragging its feet on Habre’s case for 20 years. And Belgium, which has had a ceaseless quest to try the former Chadian leader, now sues Senegal to the UN's highest court on March 12, 2012 to force it to bring Mr. Habre to trial for crimes against humanity or to extradite him. 

The former Chad president, offered a safe haven in Senegal after his overthrow in 1990, deserved to be prosecuted for the terrible torture visited on his victims, Belgium's representative Paul Rietjens told the court.

International media reports said the case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the “most serious international attempt” to date to put Habre, 69, on trial for alleged atrocities committed during his eight-year rule.

At the June 2011 African Union Summit in Malabo, the AU reiterated its decision in January 2011 confirming the mandate given to Senegal to put Hissene Habre on trial expeditiously or extradite him to any other country willing to put him on trial.

A responsibility Senegal fell short of executing on arguments that it lacks the funds to do so. “Senegal should carry out its legal responsibility in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Torture; and the decision of the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture,” the AU Assembly said last year.  

"These victims, who accuse him of crimes that deserve to be prosecuted, deserve justice" Rietjens is quoted to have said. "Many of them were tortured, incredibly tortured."

Brussels now argues that Dakar's refusal to prosecute Habre or have him extradited "violates the general obligation to punish crimes committed under international humanitarian law".

For now, Senegal, which has blocked three extradition requests by Belgium and a fourth request hanging in the balance, is faced with a turbulent year and would want to finish with its home troubles (riots and election run-off). 

"Senegal is doing its best within the actions considered to be reasonable," the AFP news agency quoted Cheikh Tidiane Thiam, a director general in the Senegalese government to have told the ICJ at The Hague.

Its’ President, Abdoulaye Wade is faced with an uncertain future as he battles with his former Prime Minister Mackey Sall for the presidency in the second-round of voting on March 29, 2012. The old man, Mr. Wade is widely expected to loose the elections having fallen short of the required 52% per cent mark in the first round.    

On the sidelines of the events at home, Belgium, which took up the case under its "universal jurisdiction" law, will keep Senegal on its feet at The Hague until March 21 when representatives from both countries will present their arguments in six hearings.

Author: Modou S. Joof

Follow on Twitter: @thenorthbankeve

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