Friday, July 20, 2012
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its decision today finding that the Republic of Senegal has an obligation to bring proceedings against Mr. Hissene Habre or extradite him to face trial elsewhere. Mr. Habre is the former president of the Republic of Chad and is accused of crimes under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) during his time in office. Belgium instituted proceedings in 1999 against Senegal (where Mr. Habre has been residing as a political asylee) pursuant to CAT to force Senegal to prosecute or extradite Mr. Habre to Belgium to face prosecution there.
The ICJ found that Senegal violated its obligations under CAT by failing to enact implementing legislation that would establish universal jurisdiction over acts of torture occurring in another country in its domestic courts, and taking other actions that prevented the prosecution of Mr. Habre in Senegal.
This decision is certainly a legal victory in a number of ways. It establishes ICJ jurisdiction under CAT; it affirms and strengthens the erga omnes obligation to prevent and punish torture; and it helps to bring accountability to ruthless dictators. However, Senegal has managed to drag its feet in prosecuting Mr. Habre for many years. It remains to be seen whether the international community will take action to enforce this ICJ judgment against Senegal and ensure that Mr. Habre is held accountable for his actions.