The Hague, March 21, 2012 (FH) – Hearings ended Wednesday at the International Court of Justice in a Belgium-Senegal dispute over Chad's ex-president Hissène Habré. Judges are likely to take several weeks before delivering their decision.

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Belgium argued before the 15 judges of the ICJ that “Senegal has violated and is still violating the international Convention against Torture” by not bringing Habré to trial. Brussels asked the court to order Dakar to try Habré or extradite him to Belgium, where he has been indicted since 2005 for crimes against humanity and torture. Habré has been living in exile in Senegal since 1990. Senegal's lawyers argued that it has not breached its obligations, and that if Habré has not been brought to trial in 21 years it is because of all the political and legal complications. The most recent is a decision of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in November 2010 which came just after a donor pledge of 8.6 million Euros to Senegal to organize the trial. The ECOWAS court called on Dakar to “look at ways of setting up, under the auspices of the African Union, an ad hoc international court to try Hissène Habré”.  Senegalese prosecutor general Ibrahim Bakhoum said his country must respect the ECOWAS court decision and had undertaken a series of talks on this point with the African Union.


Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch, a long time campaigner on behalf of the victims, said Senegal's arguments were not convincing. “The ICJ is the victims' last hope of seeing Habré prosecuted or extradited to Belgium to face trial,” he concluded. The case was brought following a request to the ICJ from Belgium on February 19, 2009.


The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, established under the UN Charter of 1945. (It should not be confused with the International Criminal Court, which is also based in The Hague.) The ICJ's main role is to settle legal disputes between states. Its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned.