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International Justice Court declines to keep Habre in Senegal

By | May 29th 2009

THE HAGUE, Thursday

The World Court today declined to issue an order to prevent exiled former Chadian president Hissene Habre from leaving Senegal, denying a request from Belgium aimed at bringing him to trial.

Belgium charged Habre in 2005 with crimes against humanity and torture. In April it asked the court in The Hague, formally known as the International Court of Justice, for a ruling because it feared that Habre might be allowed to leave Senegal and find refuge elsewhere.

The ruling came as a setback for Belgium, which had argued there was an "urgent threat" that Habre may be allowed to leave Senegal.

Belgium, whose legal system allows it to prosecute serious crimes committed abroad, had sought a quick provisional ruling to ensure Habre would not be able to leave Senegal while it tries to force Dakar to either try him or extradite him to Belgium for trial there.

"There does not exist, in the circumstances of the present case, any urgency to justify the indication of provisional measures by the Court," World Court Judge Hisashi Owada said, adding the court had agreed to this decision by 13 votes to 1.

He said Senegal had given assurances that Habre was under the surveillance of Senegalese authorities.

Though it rejected Belgium’s request, the court said the decision did not prejudge the World Court’s jurisdiction in the case. It said Belgium could submit a fresh request for an order banning Habre from leaving Senegal, if based on new facts.

"This keeps the pressure on Senegal," Reed Brody at Human Rights Watch said, because the door was still open for Belgium to revisit the matter with the World Court.

"The important thing now is that Hissene Habre will stay in Senegal and what we’re hoping is that Senegal will move forward finally and begin the case against him."


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