afrol News, 15 November - Hissène Habré, the infamous Chadian dictator, has been arrested in Senegal, where his has live in a peaceful 15-year exile. The detention follows an international arrest warrant and a Belgian court demand. Mr Habré may face charges of crimes against humanity in Brussels if extradited.
The now 63-year-old Chadian ex-Dictator has been in and out of Senegalese courtrooms since 2000. Ruling Chad with an iron fist from 1982 to 1990, he is accused of being responsible of some 40,000 political murders and systematic torture 200,000 people, as well as of stealing US$ 11.6 million from the Chadian treasury. In March 2001, however, Senegal's highest court of appeal ruled that it had no jurisdiction to try Mr Habré.
The Habré case nevertheless had remained a hot potato for the Senegalese government and judiciary due to pressure from abroad. Already one month after the Senegalese ruling, the UN Committee against Torture urged Senegal to prosecute or extradite Mr Habré as "required by the UN Torture Convention."
An association of Chadian torture victims, backed up by international human rights groups, has kept the case warm. In February 2002, Belgian residents of this victims group achieved the attention from a Brussels judge, Daniel Fransen, who launched an investigation into Mr Habré's "crimes against humanity". Belgian law has a principle of "universal jurisdiction" to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, no matter where the crime was committed.
In September, the Belgian court had finished its investigations, which also had taken judge Fransen to Chad. It concluded that crimes against humanity had been made and issued an international arrest warrant on Mr Habré. The Senegalese judiciary had to act. Today, the ex-Dictator was arrested as his extradition case is to come up.
According to the Dakar independent daily 'Le Quotidien', the city's Court of Appeal now is looking into whether the Belgian request is in line with international law. It is not to look into the case against Mr Habré. If it comes to a positive conclusion, extradition will be recommended to President Abdoulaye Wade, who "must sign the decree of extradition," 'Le Quotidien' reports.
An official statement by the Dakar Court of Appeal however indicated that the chances of extradition are high. The statement said that that the extradition of Mr Habré is supported by authorities such as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, African Union President Alpha Konaré and the European Parliament.
Human rights activist all over the world thoroughly have followed the Habré case, which might develop into the first case ever where an ex-President is extradited to another country to face human rights charges. This, they hold, would make dictators more cautious about committing crimes of the scale Mr Habré is accused of.
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