Belgium takes Senegal to the ICJ over Hissène Habré trial 20 Feb 2009
Belgium has brought proceedings against Senegal at the ICJ over its failure to prosecute or extradite former Chad President, Hissène Habré to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hissène Habré in SenegalOn 19 February 2009, Belgium instituted proceedings against Senegal before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claiming that Senegal had breached its international obligations by failing to prosecute or extradite Hissène Habré, former President of Chad.   Hissène Habré has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and torture during his 1982-1990 rule. Belgium has further requested that the court indicate provisional measures pending its final decision, requesting that Hissène Habré is kept under house arrest to avoid him leaving Senegal.

International law

Belgium had been pushing for Hissène Habré to be tried in Senegal or in Belgium itself, where a lawsuit against him has been brought by Belgian nationals of Chadian descent and Chadian nationals. Belgium argues in its application that Senegal’s failure to prosecute Hissène Habré “violates the general obligation to punish crimes against international humanitarian law”, and breaches the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture. To found the Court’s jurisdiction, Belgium invokes the unilateral declarations of compulsory jurisdiction made by the parties pursuant article 36 (2) of the Statute of the Court. It further requests the court to indicate provisional measures ordering Senegal to keep Hissène Habré under control and surveillance of authorities.

African trial

Hissène Habré was indicted on 3 February 2000 in Dakar, where he lived since he was ousted by rebels in 1990. However, the indictment was dismissed by the Dakar Court of Appeal on the grounds that “‘crimes against humanity’ [did] not form part of Senegalese criminal law”. Despite a Belgian arrest warrant issued in 2005, Senegal first refused to extradite Hissène Habré to Belgium on immunity grounds. In 2006, the African Union was seized of the question and pronounced itself in favour of a trial in an African country, meaning in Senegal.

In 2007 Senegal amended its criminal code to cover war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only a budget agreement between Senegal and declared donors (the EU, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands), prevents the start of the trial. Belgium’s concerns about the future of the proceedings were raised after Senegalese President Abdullah Wade declared in an interview, in October 2008, that Senegal was not under an obligation to try Hissène Habré.

Habré, Hissène on the DomCLIC project

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