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Africa rights court refuses to take Habre case in first ruling

[JURIST] The African Court on Human and People's Rights (AfCHPR) [official website] issued its first decision [judgment, PDF] Tuesday, finding that it lacks jurisdiction to hear a case against Senegal on whether charges against former Chadian president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] should be dropped. Chadian national Michelot Yogogombaye filed a petition with the court last year seeking to suspend the planned Senegalese trial of Habre. The court unanimously dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction:

Consequently, the Court concludes that Senegal has not accepted the jurisdiction of the Court to hear cases instituted directly against the country by individuals or non-governmental organizations. In the circumstances, the Court holds that ... it does not have jurisdiction to hear the application.

Habre, who has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990, fled to Senegal after being overthrown in 1990. Belgium has sought to try him under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal has long refused extradition [JURIST reports].

Last year, the AfCHPR was criticized [JURIST report] for its failure to effectively institute a court to adjudicate human rights issues on the continent. Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) [advocacy website] said the AfCHPR had not yet begun to hear cases despite its establishment more than 10 years ago, attributing the delay to disputes between the court and the commission and a lack of strong support from African Union (AU) [official website] countries. Eleven judges were sworn-in in 2006, despite criticism for lack of transparency [JURIST reports] in the nomination process. The AfCHPR was officially created by a 1998 AU protocol [text]

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