Belgium trial best option for victims of Chad's Habre: NGO

27th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

A group of right bodies said Thursday that extraditing Chadian former dictator Hissene Habre to Belgium to be tried for atrocities under his regime was the best option for a fast and fair trial.

A declaration by the International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissene Habre, made up of several rights groups, said that while a trial in Africa was desirable, it would likely make the case drag on even longer, while aging victims died.

"Faced with Senegal's clear and repeated lack of will to prosecute Habre, we consider that extraditing him to Belgium is the most practical and timely option to ensure that he can respond to the charges against him with all the guarantees of a fair trial," read the statement.

Habre, dubbed Africa's Pinochet for atrocities committed under his rule, has been living in Senegal since fleeing his country in 1990 after being ousted by incumbent President Idriss Deby Itno. He had ruled for eight years.

A 1992 truth commission report in Chad said that during his time in power, Habre presided over up to 40,000 political murders and widepread torture.

While mandated by the African Union to put Habre on trial, Senegal dragged its feet for years, with President Abdoulaye Wade finally admitting he wanted "to get rid of" the case in December 2010.

The AU has since ordered Senegal either to try Habre or to extradite him.

The country raised alarm in July when it attempted to put Habre on a private plane and send him back to Chad, where he has been sentenced to death in absentia, however this plan was later scrapped.

Belgium has wanted to try Habre since 2005, when it issued an international arrest warrant against him for "serious violations of international humanitarian law" and a new extradition request is pending before the Senegalese courts.

The AU is also exploring the option of having Rwanda host the trial, but rights bodies fear this could take even longer and "many more survivors would be likely to die during those years".

A Belgian investigating team visited Chad in 2002, where they visited detention centres and mass graves and found thousands of documents from Habre's political police, providing strong evidence of torture and rights violations.

© 2011 AFP

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