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Senegal criticized for delaying prosecution of former Chad dictator

[JURIST] A coalition of international and African human rights groups Monday criticized Senegal for delays [statement, in French; APO press release] in the prosecution of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] and called on the African Union [organization website] to press the issue at an upcoming summit. The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, the Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime, the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, and the International Federation of Human Rights [advocacy websites] accused Senegal of stalling Habre's trial, noting that the Senegalese minister of justice had yet to fulfill his pledges to appoint investigating judges in the case. Habre was accused in 1992 by a Chadian Truth Commission of committing some 40,000 acts of murder and torture of political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. He has been living is Senegal since he was deposed in 1990, and the Senegalese courts dismissed an action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that they lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere. In April, the National Assembly of Senegal amended the Senegalese Constitution [JURIST report] to give Senegalese courts jurisdiction over the trial of Habre. IPS has more.

Senegal courts have long refused to extradite Habre, despite the issuance of an international arrest warrant [JURIST reports] by Belgium pursuant to its universal jurisdiction laws [HRW backgrounder]. Under growing international pressure to either try Habre locally or extradite him to Belgium, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade [official profile, in French; BBC profile] agreed in April 2006 to try him in Senegal [Africa Union report] and the government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. In January, an EU official sent to Senegal to advise the court where trial should take place reported that the trial would not begin in 2008 [JURIST report].

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