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HRW: Clinton Should Support Prosecution of Habre

Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)
Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)
Human Rights Watch is urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to use her trip to Africa to encourage African leaders to do more to promote freedom of expression, deal with excessive police violence and bring to justice those accused of human rights abuses.

Clinton’s first stop was Senegal and HRW said Clinton should publicly support the country’s efforts to prosecute former Chadian rule Hissene Habre for crimes against humanity while he was president from 1982 until 1990. Habre is accused of being responsible for thousands of political killings and systematic torture. He has been living in exile for more than 21 years in Senegal, but has not faced prosecution.

“The international court of justice issued a ruling on July 20, ordering Senegal to prosecute without further delay Hissene Habre or extradite him. So we’re asking Secretary Clinton to raise the matter with Senegalese authorities who have recently agreed with the African Union to create a special court within the Senegalese justice system to prosecute Mr. Habre,” said Leslie Haskell, a spokesperson for Human rights Watch in Geneva.

HRW said the United States should join with other international donors to provide a substantial contribution to finance court proceedings.

“The international community has played a pivotal role in pushing for Habre to be brought to justice. In 2010 they agreed to help finance his trial and unfortunately Senegal then walked out of talks with the African Union in terms of finalizing the court that would try Mr. Habre,” said Haskell.

She said now that an agreement has been reached they are calling for the international community, in particular the U.S., to support the efforts of Senegal’s government as it moves forward to set up a court to try Habre.

Listen to entire interview with Leslie Haskell and Kim Lewis.