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ICJ to rule on ex-Chad leader trial

By - | July 20th 2012

The International Court of Justice is due to rule on whether Senegal should extradite Chad's former President Hissene Habre to face trial in Belgium.

Mr Habre, 69, denies charges of killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents from 1982 until he was ousted from power in 1990.

He has been under house arrest since 2005 in Senegal, where he fled after being deposed.

The Hague court could also rule that he should be tried in Senegal instead.

Senegal has previously refused four extradition requests from Belgium.

The ruling of the UN's highest court will be legally binding.

Friday prayers

Dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", Mr Habre was first indicted in Senegal in 2000 - but the country's courts ruled at the time that he could not be tried there.

His alleged victims then filed complaints under Belgium's universal jurisdiction law, which allows the country's judges to prosecute human rights offences committed anywhere in the world.

In 2005, he was charged by Belgium with crimes against humanity and torture.

There have been years of wrangling in Senegal over what to do about Mr Habre.

The government of former President Abdoulaye Wade changed its position on whether to try him several times, at one stage demanding international funding for a trial.

Last year it unexpectedly announced that it would repatriate Mr Habre to Chad, where a court in 2008 sentenced him to death in absentia for planning to overthrow the government.

This plan was stopped following a plea from the UN, which feared he could be tortured on his return.

The BBC's Mamadou Ba in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, says unlike its predecessor, the government of newly elected President Macky Sall has made it clear it wants Mr Habre to be tried in Senegal.

Legal experts from the African Union are currently in Senegal to discuss how the trial could take place, he says.

Our reporter says Mr Habre and his wife keep a low profile in Dakar and he lives in relative freedom - guarded by two security agents - and is occasionally seen at a mosque for Friday prayers.

A 1992 Truth Commission in Chad accused Mr Habre of being responsible for widespread torture and the death of 40,000 people during his eight-year rule.

He was accused of carrying out a deliberate policy of terror to discourage any opposition.

Survivors of torture say that, among other things, they were subjected to electric shocks, near-asphyxia and "supplice des baguettes", when their head was squeezed between sticks.



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