AFP, 05 April 2009
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Belgium urged the UN’s highest court Monday to compel Senegal to keep Chad’s ex-president Hissene Habre under house arrest and ensure he is tried for allegedly torturing and killing opponents in the 1980s.
“Belgium seizes this court (with the matter) … in order to prevent Mr Hissene Habre evading justice,” Paul Rietjens, a senior Belgian legal affairs official, argued in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Lawyers for Belgium told the court that Habre, accused of torture and crimes against humanity, was likely to go into hiding if Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade carried out threats to lift his house arrest unless funds required for a trial are found.
“This is an urgent threat,” argued counsel Eric David.
Senegal responded that Belgium’s application was “inappropriate, inopportune and without foundation” and merely a backhanded way of ensuring Habre’s extradition to Brussels to be tried there instead.
“Senegal does not intend to bring an end to the surveillance and house arrest of Mr Hissane Habre,” Cheikh Tidiane Thiam, a legal official in the Senegalese foreign ministry, told the judges.
“Senegal has never indicated that it is not going to try Mr Hissane Habre. This urgency artificially concocted by Belgium does not exist.”