December 12, 2006

To the Heads of State of the African Union

We, the undersigned African NGOs, urge that the African Union recommend to Senegal that it extradite the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to Belgium, where he is now wanted to stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has put the issue before the upcoming summit of the African Union.

The extradition of Mr. Habré to Belgium - which is supported by the government of Chad - would be a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes.

Mr. Habré stands accused of atrocities committed on a massive scale. A Chadian Truth Commission estimated that Mr. Habré’s regime was responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 Chadians and the systematic practice of torture. Mr. Habré periodically targeted various ethnic groups such as the Sara (1983-6), the Arabs, the Hadjerai (1987), and the Zaghawa (1989-90), killing and arresting group members en masse. The files of Mr. Habré’s political police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), provide a meticulously detailed account of Mr. Habré’s repression. A total of 12,321 victims of abuse are mentioned in the documents, including 1,208 individuals who died in detention.

Some have argued against sending an African leader for trial in Europe. We all would have preferred to see Hissène Habré tried in Africa. But the fact is that Senegal refused to prosecute Mr. Habré in 2000 when it had the opportunity to do so, Chad has never sought Mr. Habré’s extradition (and could not guarantee him a fair trial), and no other country has asked for Mr. Habré’s extradition. Creation of a new African tribunal to try Mr. Habré’s alleged crimes is too distant, too contingent and too costly.

Unless an African country with an independent judiciary having competence over the acts, that adheres to international fair trial standards and could arrange to incorporate the results of the four-year Belgian pre-trial investigation, were rapidly to seek Hissène Habré’s extradition, Mr. Habré’s extradition to Belgium remains the most concrete, realistic and timely option for ensuring that he is able to respond to the charges against him with all guarantees of a fair trial.

Hissène Habré’s victims have already been waiting for 15 years to find a court to hear their case, and many of the survivors have already died.

We urge the African Union to choose justice, not impunity, and to recommend Hissène Habré’s extradition to Belgium.

Yours sincerely,

The InterAfrican Union for Human Rights (IUHR)
The Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime (AVCRP)
The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH)
The Chadian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
The Chadian Association for the Promotion of Fundamental Freedoms (APLFT)
Senegalese Coalition for the Extradition of Hissène Habré to Belgium
The African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO)
The Senegalese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders
The League of the Rights of the Person in the Great Lakes
The Association for Human and Social Development in Mauritania,
The Movement of Mauritanian Refugees in Sénégal for Human Rights
Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur la démocratie et le développement économique et social au Burkina (G.E.R.D.D.E.S.)
Amnesty International – Benin Section
Club Union Africaine (Côte d’Ivoire)
African Children’s Development (Côte d’Ivoire)
Ivorian Movement for Human Rights (MIDH)
Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP)
Network of Journalists for Human Rights (RJDH - Niger)
Fizi Women’s Solidarity for Family Well-Being (RDC)
Social Action for Peace and Development (ASPD -RDC)
Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix (CDJP/Kalemie - RDC)
Arche d’Alliance (Association for the Promotion and Defense of the Human Person in the DRC).
Centre des droits de l'homme et du développement (CDHD – Congo Republic)
Mediterranean Organization for Development and Humanitarian Action (Morocco)
Djibouti League for Human Rights
SOS Aux Victimes de Non-Droit (Madagascar)
Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE -Liberia)
Hurinet – Uganda : Human Rights Network,
National Society for Human Rights –Namibia
Media Institute of Southern Africa
SANGONET – South African NGO Network
Youth Development Forum – Uganda
Volia Basin Development Foundation (Ghana)
Inter African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development