UN court to hear Belgian case against Senegal

13th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium asked the court in The Hague for an interim ruling on measures to stop Chad's former president Hissene Habre from fleeing.

THE HAGUE - The UN's highest court will hear arguments put forward by Belgium next month to secure the prosecution of Chad's former president Hissene Habre for torture, a court statement said Thursday.

Last month, Belgium filed a case against Senegal in the International Court of Justice to compel it to prosecute Habre, who is living on its soil, or to extradite him for trial.

It also asked the court, based in The Hague, for an interim ruling on measures to stop Habre from fleeing -- the matter on which public hearings will be held from April 6 to 8.

"The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Belgium," the court said.

Belgium had argued in documents filed with the court that Senegal's failure to prosecute Habre or to extradite him to Belgium for trial violated the UN Convention against torture.

Habre was toppled from power in 1990 and fled to Senegal after an eight-year reign during which thousands of Chadians were allegedly tortured.

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

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

Between November 2000 and December 2001, a Belgian national of Chadian origin and several Chadian nationals filed complaints in Belgian courts, and in September 2005, Belgium issued an international warrant for Habre's arrest.

In July 2006, the African Union gave Senegal the green light to prosecute Habre for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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


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