Senegal rejects extradition of Chad’s Habre to Belgium
Senegal's appeals court on Wednesday rejected a Belgian request for Chad's former president Hissene Habre to be extradited to face charges of atrocities committed during his 1982-1990 rule.
“The Dakar Appeals Court today rejected the request to have Hissene Habre extradited to Belgium. It ruled that Belgium’s demand did not conform to legal provisions” in Senegal, said an official from the justice ministry.
“Belgium did not respect the procedure,” he said, without giving details.
Belgium had proposed in July that Habre be extradited, with support from the Chadian government.
Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch who has spearheaded the case against Habre, 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.”
Brody was part of a Belgian investigating team that 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.
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 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 widespread torture.
While mandated by the African Union to put Habre on trial, Senegal has dragged its feet for years.
Last year, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade announced he would send Habre back to Chad but backed down at the last minute under pressure from rights groups and the United Nations.
The 85-year-old Wade, who is controversially seeking another term in office in an election next month, said earlier this month in an interview that Habre’s extradition to Belgium was imminent.
“Very probably, Hissene Habre will be sent to Belgium. I have referred Belgium’s request to the Dakar court of appeal. If the court decides it, he will be extradited,” he said.
Belgium has wanted to try Habre since 2005, when it issued an international arrest warrant for “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.
The Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights warned that Senegal risks losing up to $50 million (39 million euros) in US aid if it fails to bring Habre to justice.
“More than 25 billion CFA francs risk being completely jeopardised by Senegal’s inability to comply with its international obligations and try or extradite Hissene Habre,” RADDHO said in a statement.
The rights body said that while Washington had earmarked the amount for Senegal, some US representatives had voiced concern over the lack of progress in the Habre case.