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Hissène Habré extradition case opens at ICJ

Belgium has urged the International Court of Justice to order ex-Chad President Hissène Habré's extradition from Senegal over accusations that the 69-year-old committed crimes against humanity during his eight-year reign in the 1980s.

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Chad's ex-dictator Hissène Habré leaves Dakar's courthouse in November 2005, after the court disqualified itself from ruling on an extradition request from Belgium. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Lawyers for Belgium have requested that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order Senegal to either prosecute or extradite Chad’s ex-President Hissène Habré, who is accused of killing and torturing tens of thousands of political opponents during his eight-year rule.

The case before the Court is about “taking a stand against impunity in the most serious crimes in international law,” Belgian representative Paul Rietjens told judges Monday at the ICJ in Dutch city The Hague, according to the Associated Press.

“These victims are entitled to see the person they accuse of these crimes brought to justice,” he continued, adding: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

More from GlobalPost: Calls for justice in Senegal

Dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet,” Habré seized power in a 1982 coup and was ousted in 1990.

Two years later a Chad Truth Commission found him responsible for 40,000 political murders and widespread torture. The 69-year-old was arrested in Senegal in 2006 after Belgium charged him with crimes against humanity and torture under the law of universal jurisdiction, which allows for the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations committed anywhere in the world, GlobalPost reports.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal avoids human rights trial

Habré is currently ensconced in a luxury villa in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. The Senegalese government has repeatedly refused requests from the African Union, the UN and Amnesty International to try him or extradite him to a country that will, citing faulty paperwork.

A ruling by the ICJ is not expected for months. Senegal, whose court of appeal rejected a fourth Belgian request to extradite Habré in January, will open its case in The Hague on Thursday, according to the BBC.

To date, Dakar has sent out mixed signals over Habré’s case. In January Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said the appeal court’s decision was due to a procedural error and Habré’s extradition was imminent, while in papers filed with the ICJ, Senegal contends it still intends to prosecute Habré. However, officials have previously said Habré will not stand trial in Senegal. 

More from GlobalPost: Senegal stops extradition of former Chad dictator Hissene Habre 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120312/hissene-habre-extradition-case-opens-at-icj-over-crimes-against-humanity