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Human Rights Groups Applaud Belgium's Extradition Request for Former Chadian Ruler

Human rights groups are applauding Belgium's extradition request to Senegal for the former Chadian ruler, Hissene Habre, to face charges of atrocities during his 1982 to 1990 rule.

A special counsel for New York-based Human Rights Watch, Reed Brody, called it a great day for thousands of victims, and a milestone in the fight to hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes.

The Senegalese-head of a human rights group, Alioune Tine, said the onus was on Senegal, where the former Chadian leader lives in exile, to extradite him to Belgium to face justice.

A former opposition activist, who was tortured for more than two years in jail during Mr. Habre's rule, Souleymane Guengueng, told VOA, he hoped this would prevent others from suffering his fate.

He said he feels Mr. Habre's atrocities all over his body. He says, he hopes never again such torture will take place in his country, and that justice will finally prevail.

A 1992 Chadian truth commission accused Mr. Habre's government of tens-of-thousands of political killings, systematic torture, the targeted persecution of certain ethnic groups and stealing millions of dollars from state coffers.

Mr. Guengueng says he believes Senegal's government will abide by the extradition request.

He says African presidents used to come together to protect each other from facing charges, but that he believes Senegal's president, Abdoulaye Wade, will resist such pressure.

Mr. Wade has already offered to expel Mr. Habre, but he was asked to wait until an extradition request was made.

Belgium made the request on the basis of a court case, filed by more than 20 plaintiffs, some of whom are citizens of Belgium. The case is being considered under a so-called universal jurisdiction law, which allows foreign nationals, including former heads-of-state, to be tried in Belgium on accusations of human rights violations wherever they occurred.

Mr. Habre, who has been living in exile in Senegal since his overthrow in 1990 by Chad's current President Idriss Deby, had no immediate comment.