[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Friday that Senegal must promptly either put on trial or extradite to Belgium Chadian ex-president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The court’s legally binding order also noted that Senegal had failed to make serious efforts to prosecute Habre, 69, who has been been under house arrest in Senegal since 2005. Senegal is a signatory to the Convention against Torture [text], which obliges member states to extradite or refer for prosecution [Reuters report] anyone in their territory accused of responsibility for torture, and so Senegal cannot circumvent its obligation to prosecute or extradite even based on its own laws:
The Court observes that, under Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which reflects customary law, Senegal cannot justify its breach of the obligation provided for in Article 7, paragraph 1, of the Convention against Torture by invoking provisions of its internal law, in particular by invoking the decisions as to lack of jurisdiction rendered by its courts in 2000 and 2001, or the fact that it did not adopt the necessary legislation pursuant to Article 5, paragraph 2, of that Convention until 2007.
Habre fled to Senegal after being deposed [BBC report] in 1990, and denies charges of killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents after coming to power in a bloody coup in 1982.
The international community has called on Senegal to cease the human rights violations in the country while prosecuting those responsible for such. In March, lawyers for the Belgian government asked [JURIST report] the ICJ to force Senegal to bring Habre to justice for atrocities he committed during his eight years in power. In July 2011 Senegal reversed its decision to deport Habre [JURIST report] back to Chad after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned of possible torture. That month Pillay issued the plea [JURIST report] to stay Habre’s deportation to Chad after the nation’s courts sentenced him to death in absentia. Senegal had announced its intent to deport [JURIST report] Habre to face charges of war crimes the previous Friday. In May 2009 Belgium had attempted [JURIST report] to try Habre under universal jurisdiction, but was denied the chance by the ICJ.