Belgium open to Senegal pledge in Habre case

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium signalled Tuesday it would accept a pledge from Senegal before the International Court of Justice to keep Chad's ex-president Hissene Habre under house arrest.

THE HAGUE - Belgium is pressing the UN court to compel Senegal to prosecute Habre or extradite him to Belgium where he is wanted for trial for the alleged torture and killing of opponents in the 1990s.

"If Senegal is ready to solemnly declare before the court that it will not let Mr Habre leave its territory... it could suffice for Belgium to consider that its demand is without object," said Gerard Dive, an official with the Belgian justice ministry.

Such a declaration would have to be "clear and without conditions," Dive told the court on the second day of hearings into Belgium's request. The case continues Wednesday.

Habre was toppled from power in 1990 and fled to Senegal after an eight-year reign during which thousands of his political opponents, their family members, and members of certain ethnic groups, were allegedly tortured and killed.

An official truth commission report in 1992 accused Habre's regime of having committed some 40,000 political murders.

Habre was charged in Senegal in February 2000, but the indictment was dismissed by the Dakar Court of Appeal on the grounds that crimes against humanity were not part of Senegalese criminal law.

In July 2006, the African Union gave Senegal the green light to prosecute Habre.

While Senegal has since amended its penal code to include the offences of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, no trial has yet started as Dakar claims it needs 27 million euros (38 million dollars) -- a sum international donors say is excessive.

The International Court of Justice settles disputes between states and does not try individuals. Its ruling on the demand for interim measures could take several weeks, while the main application may take years to conclude.


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