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Belgium Attempts to Acquire Habre from Senegal

AllAfrica.com (5/28/09)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has turned down a request that it order Senegal to keep the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré, within its jurisdiction pending the resolution of court proceedings aimed at bringing him to trial on charges of torture and crimes against humanity.

Sitting in The Hague in the Netherlands, the court accepted an assurance by Senegal that it would not allow Habré to leave the country.

The Belgian government had asked the court to issue a provisional order against Senegal after President Abdoulaye Wade said in media interviews that he did not intend to hold Habré in the country indefinitely if the international community failed to provide funding for his trial.

Habré faces charges both in Senegal and in Belgium. The Belgian government argued to the ICJ that the implications of Wade's statement were that Senegal might lift the house arrest it had imposed on Habré.

But after noting the assurance given to the court by Senegal, the court declared that "there does not exist, in the circumstances of the present case, any urgency to justify the indication of provisional measures by the Court."

Belgium wanted the ICJ to issue the provisional order pending the hearing of an application in which it will ask the court to declare that Senegal should either bring Habré to trial itself or extradite him to Belgium.

Habré was indicted in Dakar in 2000 and placed under house arrest, but a Dakar appeals court ruled later that year that crimes against humanity did not form part of Senegalese law.

Senegal then referred the case to the African Union, and decided in 2007 to amend the country's law to include the offence of crimes against humanity. But Belgium wants to pursue the case itself, at least partly because of Senegal's pleas that it does not have the financial means to prosecute him.

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