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Belgium urges Senegal to extradite Habre

Published on 11/07/2011

The Belgian foreign ministry plans Monday to call in Senegal's ambassador to discuss the extradition of Chad's former president Hissene Habre to face trial in Belgium, a ministry spokesman said.

Habre ruled Chad with an iron fist from 1982 until 1990, when he was ousted by incumbent President Idriss Deby Itno and fled into exile in Senegal, where he has been living since he was accused by a 1992 truth commission report of presiding over the deaths of 40,000 people.

Belgium has wanted to try Habre since 2005, when it issued an international arrest warrant against him for “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

“We are asking for the extradition of Hissene Habre to Belgium and we are going to make contact during the day with the Senegalese ambassador to inform him that this option is still a valid one,” spokesman Patrick Deboeck told AFP.

Senegal had planned to expel Habre to Chad, but bowed on Sunday to international pressure to hold off because the former president would face the death sentence and possible torture in his own country. He has indeed already been sentenced to death by a Chadian court in absentia.

Belgium’s extradition request is based on a criminal suit lodged by a Belgian of Chadian origin, who took advantage of the country’s “universal competence” law enabling Belgian courts to try people for crimes under international law, provided one of several citizens of Belgian nationality are involved.

Belgium has gone to the International Court of Justice over the case with a view to obtaining Habre’s extradition.

Senegal decided on Sunday to suspend the expulsion of the Chadian former president when confronted with concerns on the part of the United Nations that breach international law.

“I urge the government of Senegal to review its decision,” UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said. “Extraditing Habre in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law.

“As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Senegal may not extradite a person to a state where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

The Senegalese government announced that it would “immediately go into consultations with the UN, the African Union and the international community” in order that “a solution can rapidly be found.”

Senegal has come under considerable pressure in recent years to try Habre on its own territory, which it has agreed to do in principle, but in practice says that it is not prepared to foot the bill.