Brussels, October 20, 2011 (FH) - Plaintiffs who have filed cases against Hissene Habre would rather have the former Chadian President be tried in Belgium than in Rwanda, their lawyers and representatives told Hirondelle News Agency.

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Habre has been in exile in Senegal since he was toppled in 1990 by current President Idriss Deby.

At its last summit meeting in June in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), the African Union (AU) decided to reopen the search for a country ready to try Habre. Rwanda immediately volunteered while Belgium - long since prepared to try the former Chadian President in the name of "universal competence" - remains most Human Rights organizations' favorite.

"Is Rwanda's proposal to try Habre really serious?", wondered the President of the Chadian Victims Association, Clément Abaifouta, in a telephone interview from Ndjamena. "Senegal has already driven us up the wall for 21 years! As a victim, I am disgusted. We are getting older, three of us recently passed away without the satisfaction of seeing Habre tried. I want people to show us respect".

Victims' lawyer Jacqueline Moudeira expressed doubts as to whether Rwanda could sustain the financial burden of such a trial. "Does Rwanda have the means to handle this type of very costly cases?", she asked. "If not, who is going to pay?". As a further reason for organizing the trial in Belgium, she invoked the fact that "victims haven't lodged complaints in Rwanda but some of them did so in Belgium, including Belgians of Chadian origin who brought charges against Habre in 2001".

Belgium has requested Habre's extradition since 2005 and reiterated its request earlier this year. In 2009, Belgium filed a lawsuit against Senegal at the International Court of Justice in The Hague "to force Senegal either to prosecute Habre or to extradite him to Belgium". A ruling in that case is not expected before 2012.

The AU has not yet referred the case to Rwanda but is likely to do so in Jacqueline Moudeira's view. "They don't want one of them to be tried by Whites", the Chadian lawyer and Human Rights activist deplored. "They talk about the pride of Africa, etc. But what have Africans done so far? Nothing. Good justice has no color".

Contacted by Hirondelle News Agency, the Chadian Minister of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on Rwanda's proposal to organize Habre's trial.

Habre governed Chad from 1982 until 1990. His one-party rule was marked by several massacres. Files of Habre's political police - the Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS) - which were discovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001 reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention. According to HRW, a total of 12,321 victims of human rights violations are mentioned in the files.


© Agence Hirondelle