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Home News Belgium poised for trialof ‘African Pinochet’

Belgium poised for trialof ‘African Pinochet’

Published on September 30, 2005

30 September 2005

BRUSSELS – The former dictator of Chad – who has been dubbed ‘an African Pinochet’ – could face trial in Belgium for the atrocities he committed during his eight years in power.

Hissène Habré, who ran Chad from 1982 until 1990, has been charged under Belgium’s ‘universal competence’ law which allows Belgian courts to try cases of human rights abuse – wherever the crimes are alleged to have been committed.

On Friday, the Belgian media reported that Belgium has asked Senegal to extradite Habré. Habré fled to Senegal when he was driven from power by current president Idriss Deby and was later charged there for torture and crimes against humanity.

Senegalese courts ruled that they could not try the dictator, but they later agreed to hold Habré pending an extradition request from Belgium.

The case in Belgium was started when around 20 people, victims and human rights activists, laid charges against Habré. Three of them were Chads who have taken up Belgian nationality.

They have battled since Habré lost power to bring him to justice. He is accused of ordering his political police, the notorious Documentation and Security Directorate (DSS), to torture and murder 40,000 people.

Much of the mass murder was against ethnic groups.

Georges-Henri Beauthier, a prosecution lawyer in the case, told the radio and TV station RTBF the extradition warrant was “a victory”. “This could be the first time that a dictator, instead of the underlings, is judged in Belgium under the universal competence law”, he said.

Human Rights Watch, which has described Habré as “the most brutal US-backed dictator you’ve never heard of”, also welcomed the extradition warrant. It was, said the organisation, “a wake-up call to dictators in Africa and elsewhere that if they commit similar atrocities they could be brought to justice one day”.

The US and French governments backed Habré when he was in power, seeing him as a bulwark against the Libyan leader Moemmar Qaddafi.

Belgium’s universal competence law has already been successfully used to convict six Rwandans for their part in the Rwandan massacre in 1994.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news