Belgium has taken Senegal to the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) for what it says is Senegal's failure to
prosecute former Chadian President Hissene Habre for crimes against humanity
and torture. A Chadian court last year convicted Habre in absentia and
sentenced him to death for crimes against the state.
The African Union gave
Senegal the right to judge Habre. But Belgium reportedly said Senegal's failure
to prosecute Habre so far violates international law.
counsel for Human Rights Watch Reed Brody told VOA his organization supports Belgium's claims against Senegal.
Habre has been in Senegal for 18 years; it's been eight years since he was
first indicted in Senegal on charges of crimes against humanity and torture. In
two and a half years since Senegal accepted a mandate from the African Union to
prosecute Hissene Habre and nothing has happened. And Belgium is asking the ICJ
to say to Senegal the torture convention obliges you either to prosecute or to
extradite Hissene Habre. For the victims who have been fighting for so long,
this could be trigger that finally brings Hissene Habre to justice," he said.
Chadian court last year convicted Habre in absentia and sentenced him to death
for crimes against the state. Senegalese Justice Minister Madicke Niang
reportedly said Habre could not be tried twice on the same charges.
said Habre was never tried in Senegal on the same charges for which he is being
true that he was convicted in absentia in Chad for totally different acts for
allegedly having participated or helped the rebellion that is under now in
Chad. But the minister of justice has retracted that statement, and has said
that once he got the information from Chad that these are separate incidents,
and that one doesn't preclude the other," Brody said.
Senegal-based lawyer El Hadj Diouf reportedly criticized Belgium's ICJ appeal,
describing it as a "new kind of judicial imperialism." He reportedly said
Belgium needed to respect the African Union which gave Senegal the right try
said Senegal has a legal obligation under the Torture Convention and other
conventions to either prosecute him or extradite Habre.
is not saying we want Habre extradited to Belgium to stand trial. They are
saying Senegal has an obligation either to extradite him or to prosecute him.
Hissene Habre is accused of systematic torture, of thousands of political
killings. The documents say his political police which provide a roadmap to how
Hissene Habre organized his repression in Chad and lists the names of 1,208
people who died in detention. So there's a very strong against Hissene Habre for
torture and crimes against humanity. Senegal has legal obligation under the
Torture Convention and other conventions to either prosecute or extradite him,"
action against Senegal comes at a time when the International Criminal Court is
on the verge of issuing an arrest warrant against Sudan's President Omar
dismissed accusations by some Africans that the international justice system has been
targeting only Africans.
Africans who complain that African leaders are being target by international
justice, I think there's a need to show that Africans are capable of delivering
justice when crimes are being committed in Africa. In this case, I think
Senegal should take the lead and show the world that African courts are capable
of bringing to justice Africans who are alleged to have committed these
crimes," Brody said.