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Belgium asks ICJ to force Senegal trial or extradition of Chad ex-president

[JURIST] Belgium urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] Monday to compel Senegal either to begin proceedings against former Chadian president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for crimes against humanity or to extradite him to Belgium for trial under the country's universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder, PDF]. Lawyers for Belgium said that Senegal has violated international law, including Article 7 of the Convention Against Torture [text], by not trying Habre in Senegal, where he has lived under house arrest since 1990. They also requested that the ICJ order Senegal to keep Habre detained until the issue is settled, out of fear that he may find refuge in another country [Reuters report]. Senegal has said that it may have to release Habre unless it can get international funding for his trial, but that his extradition to Belgium would violate Senegal's sovereignty. Oral arguments in the case will continue until Wednesday [ICJ press release, PDF].

Belgium filed the suit [JURIST report; ICJ press release, PDF] in February asserting the ICJ must intervene because Belgium and Senegal were in dispute over Habre's prosecution. In October, lawyers for Habre filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] to prevent his trial for crimes against humanity in Senegal from moving forward. Fourteen Chadian and Senegalese filed complaints [JURIST report] with a Senegal prosecutor in September alleging Habre committed war crimes and torture. In August, Chad convicted and sentenced Habre to death in absentia [JURIST report] for crimes against the state but did not seek extradition. Since 2005, Belgium and Senegal have been engaged in a legal battle over Habre because Senegal has long refused extradition [JURIST report].

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