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Senegal: Habré Trial an ‘Illusion’

After Senegalese Walkout, Victims Seek Ex-Dictator’s Extradition to Belgium

(Dakar) - Senegal's withdrawal from talks to establish a court to try the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré was the "last straw," a coalition of his victims and human rights groups said today.

In a major change of strategy, the groups said that they were fast losing all hope for a trial in Senegal, where Habré has remained in exile for two decades, and would now press to have Habré sent to Belgium. Belgium had requested his extradition in 2005 and again in 2011.

"We would have liked to see Habré tried in Africa," said Jacqueline Moudeina, of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). "But after 11 years of delays and disappointments, this is the last straw. We have to face the facts, and the idea that Senegal would try Habré was just an illusion."

On May 30, 2011, a Senegalese delegation unexpectedly and without explanation withdrew from discussions in Dakar with the African Union (AU) on the rules for a special jurisdiction to try Habré, who is accused of thousands of killings and systematic torture in Chad from 1982 to 1990. That jurisdiction was mandated by a ruling of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The delegation's withdrawal follows more than a decade of stalling tactics by the government of President Abdoulaye Wade (see annex below).

In 2000, a senior Senegalese judge indicted Habré but, after political interference by Wade, denounced by the United Nations, Senegalese courts said they had no jurisdiction to try the case. The victims turned to Belgium, and a Belgian judge, after a four-year investigation, indicted Habré in 2005. But Senegal refused to extradite him.

In 2006, Wade accepted an AU mandate to try Habré "in the name of Africa" but then spent four years wrangling over a trial budget before a November 2010 donors' meeting pledged US$ 11.7 million to provide the full trial costs. Since January, Senegal has rebuffed successive AU plans to establish the ECOWAS-mandated special jurisdiction.

Habré ruled Chad from 1982 until 1990, when he was deposed by President Idriss Déby Itno and fled to Senegal. His one-party rule was marked by widespread atrocities, including waves of ethnic campaigns. Files of Habré's political police reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention. A total of 12,321 victims of human rights violations were mentioned in the files. A Chadian Truth Commission also found that Habré had virtually emptied out the Chadian treasury before his flight to Senegal.

The groups - the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH), the Association of Victims of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH), the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), the Senegalese League for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Agir Ensemble pour les droits de l'homme, and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) - noted that Senegal had a legal obligation under the UN Convention against Torture to prosecute or extradite Habré. In 2006, the UN Committee against Torture condemned Senegal for violating its obligation and called on Senegal to bring Habré to justice.

In 2009, Belgium filed a lawsuit against Senegal at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to force Senegal either to prosecute Habré itself or to extradite him to Belgium. A ruling in that case is not expected until 2012.

"With this latest unexpected and shameful maneuver, President Wade has finally dropped his mask," said Alioune Tine of the Dakar-based RADDHO. "Today, the last chance to obtain justice for the mass crimes of which Habré is accused is his extradition to Belgium. That is the legacy of Abdoulaye Wade, who calls himself a ‘pan-African.'"

Hissène Habré in Senegal: 21 Years of Impunity

December 1990 - President Hissène Habré of Chad is overthrown and arrives in Senegal.
January 26, 2000 - Seven Chadian victims file a criminal complaint against Habré in Dakar.

February 3, 2000 - A Senegalese judge, Demba Kandji, indicts Habré as an accomplice to torture, barbarous acts and crimes against humanity.
February 18, 2000 - Habré's lawyers ask the Dakar Appeals Court to dismiss the case.
June 30, 2000 - The Superior Council of the Magistracy, presided over by President Abdoulaye Wade, transfers Judge Kandji, removing him from the Habré investigation, and gives the president of the Dakar Appeals Court a promotion.
July 4, 2000 - The Dakar Appeals Court rules that Senegalese courts cannot pursue the charges because the crimes were not committed in Senegal. The United Nations special rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers and on torture criticize the decision and the circumstances under which it was issued. The victims appeal.
November 30, 2000 - Chadian victims living in Belgium file charges in Brussels against Habré. 
March 20, 2001 - Senegal's highest court rules that Habré cannot stand trial because his alleged crimes were not committed in Senegal.

April 7, 2001 - President Wade asks Habré to leave Senegal. 

April 23, 2001 - The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) calls on Senegal not to allow Habré to leave the country.

September 27, 2001 - President Wade agrees to hold Habré in Senegal pending an extradition request. "If a country that can organize a fair trial wants him - they speak of Belgium- I wouldn't see any obstacle."

September 19, 2005 - After a four-year investigation, including a mission to Chad, a Belgian judge issues an international arrest warrant for Habré for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. Belgium requests his extradition from Senegal.
November 15, 2005 - Senegalese authorities arrest Habré.

November 24, 2005 - The state prosecutor recommends that the Dakar Court of Appeals declare itself without jurisdiction to rule on the extradition request.
November 25, 2005 - The Dakar Court of Appeals rules that it has no jurisdiction to rule on the extradition request. Habré is released.
November 27, 2005 - Senegal asks the African Union summit to indicate "the jurisdiction that is competent to try this matter."
January 24, 2006 - The African Union establishes a "Committee of Eminent African Jurists" (CEAJ) to consider options for Habré's trial."

May 18, 2006 - The UN Committee against Torture rules that Senegal has violated the UN Convention against Torture and calls on Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré. 
July 2, 2006 - The African Union, on the report of the CEAJ, asks Senegal to prosecute Habré "on behalf of Africa." President Wade agrees to the request.
 January 31, 2007 - The Senegalese National Assembly adopts a law that allows Senegalese courts to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, even when committed outside of Senegal. It later amends its constitution.
July 2007 - The Presidents of Switzerland and France are the first to promise assistance to Senegal for the conduct of the investigation and trial.
September 16, 2008 - Fourteen victims file complaints with a Senegalese prosecutor accusing Habré of crimes against humanity and torture.

February 19, 2009 - Belgium asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré. On May 28, the ICJ accepts Senegal's formal pledge not to allow Habré to leave Senegal pending its final judgment.

2008 - 2010 - Senegal refuses to move forward until it receives full funding for the trial, and President Wade threatens to expel Habré unless funding arrives. The European Union and the African Union send numerous delegations to negotiate with Senegal. Senegal first seeks €66 million, then €27 million, and finally agrees to an €8.6 million budget.

February 19, 2009 - Belgium asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré. On May 28, the ICJ accepts Senegal's formal pledge not to allow Habré to leave Senegal pending its final judgment.

November 18, 2010 - The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules that Senegal must try Habré through a "special or ad hoc procedure of an international character."

November 24, 2010 - A donors' roundtable results in pledges of €8.6 million, fully covering the estimated costs of all the proceedings. Senegal's justice minister says the meeting was the "completion of the long process of preparation leading up to the actual start of trial."

December 10, 2010 - President Wade declares that "The African Union must take its case back... I've had enough of it at this point... I am going to get rid of him, full stop."

January 12, 2011 - The United Nations Committee against Torture responds to Wade's statement by reminding Senegal of its "obligation" to prosecute or extradite Habré.

January 13, 2011 - President Wade rejects an AU plan to try Habré before a Cambodia-style court with Senegalese and African judges.

January 31, 2011 - The African Union calls for the "expeditious" start to Habré's trial based on the ECOWAS decision.

February 4, 2011 - President Wade says: "Now, the chairman of the African Union Commission [says] we have to create a new jurisdiction, based on I-don't-know-what principle, to try Hissène Habré. I said stop. For me, it's over. I am no longer seized of this case. I am giving him back to the African Union."

March 24, 2011 - Senegal and the AU announce agreement on an "Ad hoc International Court" to try Habré and agree to meet in April to finalize the Statute and Rules of the Court.

May 30, 2011 - Senegal walks out on the meeting.

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