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ECOWAS Court Rejects Habre's Victims' Request

  • Anne Look

ECOWAS Court Rejects Habre's Victims' Request

ECOWAS Court Rejects Habre's Victims' Request

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Former Chadian president Hissene Habre wants West Africa's regional court to prevent Senegal from trying him for crimes against humanity . The regional court says Habre's victims may not take part in that case.

Former Chadian President Hissene Habre has been under house arrest in Senegal since 2000. He fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990 and has since been accused of thousands of political killings and cases of torture during his eight years in power.

In October 2008, Habre filed a complaint with the court of the Economic Community of West African States to block his trial for crimes against humanity in Senegal, citing violations of his rights.

Tuesday, the ECOWAS court rejected a request by Habre's victims to take part in those proceedings.

Senegalese government lawyer Sadel Ndiaye says though the court affirmed the right of individuals to intervene voluntarily in its proceedings, it also said those individuals must justify their need for participation.

Ndiaye says the ECOWAS court judged Hissene Habre's case against Senegal does not violate the interests of the victims. The court said their interests are protected by the proceedings already underway, particularly those happening in Senegal.

In 2006, the African Union called for Senegal to try Habre on behalf of Africa. Since then, Senegal has adopted laws that would allow it to do so, but the case is at a standstill. Authorities say they will not act until Senegal receives international funding for the trial.

Senegal has said it wants all $38 million of its proposed three-year budget up front, a demand the international community is reluctant to agree to, especially because Senegal has not offered a clear plan on how they will try Habre.

Senegalese authorities have also refused to extradite Habre to Belgium, which issued an international arrest warrant for him in 2005. In February of this year, Belgium took Senegal to the International Court of Justice for its failure to prosecute the former Chadian leader for crimes against humanity.

As the case in Senegal lurches on, Habre's victims and human-rights advocates have expressed concern that Senegal does not have the political will to try the former Chadian leader.

Hearings in Habre's complaint before the ECOWAS court will resume on January 14 to establish whether the court has jurisdiction in that case.