A court in Senegal on Thursday rejected a Belgian court's request to extradite Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the former president of Chad, on accusations that he killed and tortured opponents during his regime. Habre served as president of Chad from 1982 to 1990. Belgium alleges that, during that time, Habre was involved in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents. When he was ousted in 1990, he sought refuge in Senegal where he has resided ever since. Senegal placed Habre under arrest in 2005 after he was charged by Belgium. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said the rejection of the extradition request was based on a procedural error [BBC report]. The court did not receive original copies of the Belgian arrest warrant and other necessary documents, instead receiving photocopies. Wade said he expects the request for extradition to be granted once these procedural issues are resolved.
Senegal has been under pressure to send Habre to a country where he will face trial for his alleged war crimes committed during his rule of Chad. In July of last year, Senegal reversed [JURIST report] its decision to send the former dictator back to Chad after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned he could be tortured. The decision came after Pillay issued a plea [JURIST report] not to return Habre to Chad, which has already sentenced him to death in absentia and where she fears he will be tortured. The plea from Pillay came just days after Senegal announced it was deporting Habre to Chad [JURIST report] to face charges for war crimes. Belgium has long sought Habre's extradition under a universal jurisdiction law that allows Belgian courts to hear cases over violations of international law. In 2009, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] denied [JURIST report] Belgium's request to compel Habre's extradition.