UN high court calls for trial of former Chad president | News | DW | 20.07.2012
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UN high court calls for trial of former Chad president

The UN's highest judicial body has said that a former Chadian dictator should be tried for crimes against humanity. It is a landmark ruling that could make other exiled autocrats very nervous.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday ruled that Senegal should put the former president of Chad, Hissene Habre, on trial or extradite him, in a landmark case that could have repercussions for other exiled former leaders with checkered pasts.

The ICJ's rulings are binding; the institution is the UN's highest judicial organ.

Habre is currently in exile in Senegal, living in a luxury villa, and Dakar has so far failed to hand him over to be tried. Senegal has so far countered accusations that it is breaching international convention obligations by pointing out that it is itself planning to try Habre. But Senegal made that promise in 2000 and has still not delivered.

A long time coming

The ruling comes after pressure from a team of lawyers in Brussels, which initially asked the ICJ to order Senegal to hand the ex-leader over to be tried in Brussels. The attempt by authorities in Brussels to nail Habre goes back some years. It was in 2005, after receiving complaints from survivors of his rule, that they indicted Habre and first called for his extradition.

If Chad's former strongman is tried, whether in Senegal or in Brussels, he is expected to face charges of crimes against humanity and torture during his 1982 to 1990 reign over the Central African Nation.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, Habre seized power and then proceeded to violently smash his opposition until he was ousted in 1990. A Chadian commission of inquiry also found that Habre's power apparatus was responsible for the killing and torture of tens of thousands of political opponents.

sej/slk (AP, Reuters)