Chad backs sending Habre to Belgium for trial: ministry

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Chad said Friday it backed sending former dictator Hissene Habre, for trial in Belgium, just weeks after an abortive bid by Senegal to fly him back to his home country.

A statement from Chad's junior foreign minister Mahamat Bechir Okoromi said the country favoured sending Habre for trial in Belgium, in accordance with one option favoured by the African Union.

"Of several options envisaged by the African Union, this is the best adapted to the situation", said the statement.

Chad's Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat had set out Chad's position in a meeting in Addis Ababa with the vice-president of the African Union Commission on July 21, it added.

Habre ruled Chad for eight years from 1982. Since General Idriss Deby Itno overthrew him in 1990 he has lived in exile in Senegal.

A truth commission report in Chad said Habre had presided over 40,000 murders and widespread torture. Tried there in absentia in 2008 he was sentenced to death.

Belgium has wanted to try Habre since 2005 when it issued an international arrest warrant for the 69-year-old for "serious violations of international humanitarian law" on behalf of some of his victims.

Senegal has for far refused to send him there and has failed to follow through on an African Union mandate to try him itself in part because it wanted guarantees that it would not have to foot the bill.

And when, earlier this month, it announced plans to fly him back to Chad, it only reversed its decision after an outcry from human rights activists and an appeal from UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.

She and other activists feared he might be tortured if forced to return there.

For Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch's specialist on this case, trying Habre in Belgium is the only option.

"Senegal refuses to judge him and it's no longer possible to send him hack to N'Djamena", he said last week.

Habre himself said in an interview last week that he would be willing to appear before an international tribunal to answer charges of atrocities. He had strenuously resisted Senegal's bid to return him to Chad.

Since Senegal backed off from flying Habre home, Belgium has said it has renewed contact with Dakar to try to persuade them extradite him there.

Belgium's extradition request was possible because of the country's universal competence law, which allows the country's courts to try people under international law, provided at least one Belgian citizen is involved.

© 2011 AFP

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