Survivors of human rights violations committed during the rule of former Chadian President Hissene Habre in the 1980s have for years tried to have the former president face trial in Senegal, where he has lived since 1990. In 2000, Senegal refused to prosecute him but offered to hand him over to any other jurisdiction seeking his extradition. Belgium has asked to try him under its Universal Jurisdiction Law. The Belgian government made an extradition request to Senegal on behalf of several Chadian victims of torture and human rights abuse who currently live in Belgium. Last week a judicial body in Senegal ruled that extradition is not a matter for Senegal alone to decide but that it should be a continent-wide decision. Senegal’s foreign minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, says Dakar will ask the African Union to take up the question when A.U. ministers meet in Senegal’s capital in January.
Attorney Delphine Djiraibe is a representative of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. From Ndjamena, she told English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that Chadians are disappointed that Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade did not agree to Belgium’s extradition request. Ms. Djiraibe says Chadians, including President Idriss Deby, support the idea of their former president being tried in Belgium. When asked if Chad itself would be willing to prosecute its former leader, Ms. Djiraibe said there are sensitive political implications that might prevent such a trial. Also, he said, the structure of the country’s justice system, which is currently incapacitated by a judges’ strike, makes Chad unable to take up the case against Hissene Habre.