Brussels, March 5, 2012 (FH) - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has set arguments to begin on March 12, 2012, in the case between Belgium and Senegal over the fate of former Chadian President Hissène Habré, who has been living in exile in Dakar since 1990.

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According to Human Rights Watch, "the case could result in a binding legal order compelling Senegal to extradite Habré to Belgium if it does not prosecute him".

Habré is wanted by Belgium on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture for acts committed during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. Belgium recently filed its fourth request seeking his extradition after Senegal rebuffed the others.

Habré was first indicted in Sénégal in 2000. "Since then, we only went through a succession of disappointments and postponements", Jaqueline Moudeina, one of the victims' Defence lawyer told Hirondelle News Agency.

Victims filed a case in Belgium in 2000. Habré's extradition was requested in 2005 after an international arrest warrant was issued by Belgian judges. "After several years of investigations, Belgians are ready to try Habré. That's the best option", Mrs Moudeina added.

On January 11, 2012, the Dakar Appeals Court declared Belgium third extradition request inadmissible, saying that the arrest warrant attached to the request was not an authentic copy. Belgium immediately filed a fourth request for Habré's extradition, suggesting that the Senegalese government was not transmitting the proper documents to the court.

 "There was an act of sabotage", Demba Ciré Bathily, another victims' Defence lawyer told Hirondelle News Agency. "Judges told me that they couldn't rule differently  with what they received from Senegalese authorities", namely the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice.

Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson at Human Rights Watch refused to confirm an act of sabotage, but underlined that "the Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs used to be coordinating Habre's defence (...) Habré has certainly invested some of the public money he took with him when he left power to protect himself."

The ICJ, which sits in The Hague, is the United Nations'highest court. Belgium's application charges that Senegal has violated the UN Convention against Torture by failing to prosecute or extradite Habre.

The public hearings at the ICJ will extend until March 21.


© Hirondelle News Agency