Senegal: A New Chapter in the Saga of Hissene Habre?

Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habré has been living in legal limbo in Senegal since 1990. The administration of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade from 2000-2012 proved reluctant to either try Habré inside Senegal or allow his extradition to Belgium, and dragged its feet on taking action. Now Habré is the problem of newly elected President Macky Sall, whose administration may be moving more decisively to end the saga.


Senegal has begun preparations to try Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture after being accused of dragging its feet for years.
The justice ministry said a working group had met Friday to debate the practical aspects of staging the trial in line with Senegal’s international commitments and with the support of the African Union.
The group comprises representatives of the judiciary, the prison system, the foreign ministry and human rights groups, the justice ministry said Saturday in a statement.

The change of administration seems to have been one factor in prompting this legal action. Another appears to be renewed pressure from abroad. AFP adds:

Belgium finally took Senegal to the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest court, which heard the case in March but has yet to rule on it.

At the hearing in The Hague Senegal denied it was dodging its legal obligations, insisting that it planned to put Habre on trial.

We will see now whether the Sall administration goes through with the trial.

I never understood Wade’s reluctance to move against Habré. Wade claimed at times that Senegal lacked the funds. Perhaps Wade, had he won a third term, would have finally gone forward with a trial, especially given the increasing pressure from Belgium. But perhaps the change of administration makes all the difference. It is possible that Sall, of a different generation than either Habré (b. 1942) or Wade (b. circa 1926), is more willing to prosecute a former African head of state. It is also possible that Sall sees little to gain from protecting Habré, and simply wants to deal with a case that has been a longstanding source of dispute between Senegal, the African Union, and Europe.


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