NGOs urge Chad dictator's extradition to Belgium for trial

9th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Human rights bodies Thursday accused Senegal of delaying justice for Chad's ex-president Hissene Habre and demanded it extradite him to Belgium to stand trial for alleged atrocities under his rule.

"Today, the last chance to obtain justice for the mass crimes of which Habre is accused is his extradition to Belgium," a coalition of his alleged victims and human rights groups said in a statement.

Habre has been living in Senegal since being toppled from power and fleeing his own country in 1990 after an eight years in power.

Thousands of his political opponents, their family members, and members of certain ethnic groups were allegedly tortured and killed during his time in power.

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

The NGOs denounced Senegal's withdrawal from African Union-led talks last month to create a court to try Habre.

"We would have liked to see Habre tried in Africa," said Jacqueline Moudeina of the Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights.

"But after 11 years of delays and disappointments, this is the last straw. We have to face the facts and the idea that Senegal would try Habre was just an illusion."

The statement accused Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade of "political interference".

"With this latest unexpected and shameful manoeuvre, President Wade has finally dropped his mask," said Alioune Tine of the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights.

Habre was charged in Senegal in February 2000, but the indictment was dismissed by a Dakar appeals court on the ground that crimes against humanity, of which he was accused, were not part of Senegalese criminal law.

Senegal has since amended its penal code, but no trial has yet started.

In September 2005, Belgium issued an international warrant for Habre's arrest after several alleged victims of his regime filed complaints in Belgian courts, but Senegal refused to extradite him.

Brussels then lodged a case in the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2009, seeking to compel Senegal to prosecute the former president or to extradite him to Belgium for trial. A ruling is not expected before next year, said the NGOs' statement.

© 2011 AFP

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