|Hissene Habre have been living in exile in Senegal for 20 years|
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 20 delivered a legally binding ruling that Senegal must begin proceedings to try former Chadian leader Hissene Habre without delay.
The Republic of Senegal, which has been dragging its feet on Habre’s case for 20 years, was sued by Belgium 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 to Belgium.
Observers said Belgium’s suing of Senegal at the ICJ is the “most serious international attempt” to date to put Habre, 69, on trial for alleged atrocities committed during his eight-year rule.
ICJ’s Friday ruling also said Habre should be extradited to face trial in Belgium, if Senegal fails to try him.
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. But he denies allegations of killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents.
"This is a victory for victims that's long overdue, and now it's high time the courts in Senegal delivered justice," the BBC quoted Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme Director, Michael Bochenek as saying.
“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 ICJ in March at the beginning of the hearing.
"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."
The AFP news agency quoted a director general in the Senegalese government, Cheikh Tidiane Thiam to have told the ICJ at The Hague: "Senegal is doing its best within the actions considered to be reasonable."
Senegal’s current president Macky Sall has said he wants Habre to be tried in the country. In fact, the ICJ ruling coincided with a meeting of legal experts from the African Union (AU) in Senegal who discussed how Habre could be tried in that West African country.
At the January 2011 Summit in Malabo, E. Guinea the AU reiterated its decision in 2006 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 the Abdoulie Wade government fell short of executing on arguments that it lacks the funds and technical expertise 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.
Written by Modou S. Joof
Follow on Facebook: The-North-Bank-Evening-Standard