THE HAGUE, Mar 12 – Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court Monday to force Senegal to bring Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity or to extradite him.
The case brought before the International Court of Justice is the most serious international attempt to date to bring the former Chadian president to trial for alleged atrocities committed during his eight-year rule.
Sixty-nine-year-old Habre, often compared to Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet, has been living in exile in Senegal since his overthrow in 1990.
Belgium took up the case under its “universal jurisdiction” law after a complaint lodged by a Belgian of Chadian origin, but Senegal has blocked four extradition requests since 2005.
Senegal, under pressure from the 54-member African Union, agreed as long ago as 2006 to try Habre, but has since been dragging its heels.
Brussels now argues that Dakar’s refusal to prosecute Habre or have him extradited “violates the general obligation to punish crimes committed under international humanitarian law”.
It took its case to the ICJ in The Hague in 2009.
Habre faces allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. A 1992 truth commission report in Chad said he presided over up to 40,000 political and ethnic-related murders.
Public sittings will be held until March 21 at the Dutch city’s Peace Palace, where representatives from both countries are to present their arguments in six hearings.
Senegal’s representative will open its case on Thursday.