12 January 2012

Senegal: Court's Ruling On Habré Eases Pressure On Wade to Act

Photo: Frank van Beek/UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ
View of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Bench during the reading of its Judgment in the case concerning Questions relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium v. Senegal).

Dakar — Senegal's president Abdoulaye Wade has been let off the hook after the court ruling that Chadian dictator should not be extradited to Belgium.

On Wednesday, Senegal's appeals court rejected a Belgian request for Habré to be extradited to face charges of atrocities committed during his 1982-1990 rule.

On Monday evening, awaiting the ruling, President Wade said: "I will most probably order his transfer."

The "protectionist" attitude of both former President Abdou Diouf and incumbent Abdoulaye Wade has been vexing the thousands of relatives and victims of Mr Habré for nearly 22 years now.

Late on Wednesday, an official from Senegal's justice ministry said: "The Dakar Appeals Court today rejected the request to have Hissene Habré extradited to Belgium. It ruled that Belgium's demand did not conform to legal provisions".

"Belgium did not respect the procedure," he said, without giving details. Belgium had proposed in July that Mr Habré be extradited, with support from the Chadian government.

Mr Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch who has spearheaded the case against Habré, said the ruling was not definitive.

"They did not refuse extradition, they said Belgium had not annexed the original arrest warrant and other papers" only photocopied versions, he told AFP by telephone from Belgium.

"It is purely a technical ruling. It leaves the door open to a fresh Belgian extradition request... it is not a definitive ruling on the merits of the case."

Meanwhile, as the pressure from civil societies and opposition political parties continue to mount on President Wade ahead of the February polls, he is most likely to end the Habré saga.

Mr Habré is wanted for assassinating over 30 thousand victims and torture of several scores while scores more allegedly went missing during his rule between 1983 and 1990 when he was toppled by incumbent President Idriss Deby.

For his part, Mr. Habré had always argued that during his regime, the country was infested by warlords and masquerading henchmen who were bent on disrupting his rule.

He said he would gladly face trial anywhere if all "those who are equally guilty of committing atrocities including the former presidents of Chad could be made to stand trial."

Mr Habré continues to live in a highly guarded mansion in Dakar and has a battery of lawyers and an alleged support of the powerful Islamic brotherhoods in Senegal which have made it difficult for governments to turn him over for trial.

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