Senegal suspends extradition of former Chadian dictator(Read article summary)
Senegal yielded to UN pressure not to extradite Hissene Habre, who is wanted in Chad for human rights violations. The UN and other international groups fear he will be tortured and executed in Chad.
Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom/File
For months, international organizations like the United Nations have been pressuring Senegal to act on Mr. HabrĂ©â€™s case, and either try him there or hand him over to another court. HabrĂ© has been living in Senegal, under various indictments, since 1990.
Many feel, myself included, that HabrĂ©â€™s case will set important precedents regarding accountability for leaders, not just in Africa but around the world. AP writes that HabrĂ© â€śhas become a symbol of impunity.â€ť
The importance of the case increases outsidersâ€™ concerns that it be administered fairly. Hence the UN objected to the plan to send HabrĂ© back to Chad:
â€śI urge the Government of Senegal to review its decision and to ensure that HabrĂ©â€™s extradition is carried out in a way that ensures his fair trial rights will be respected and he will not be subjected to torture or the death penalty,â€ť said Ms. [Navi] Pillay [the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights].
â€śAs a party to the Convention Against Torture, Senegal may not extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. At the very least Senegal must obtain fair trial guarantees from the Government of Chad before any extradition takes place,â€ť she added.
Ms. Pillay said extraditing Mr. HabrĂ© in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law.
Yesterday Senegal bowed to the pressure and agreed to suspend the extradition.
Senegalâ€™s Foreign Minister Madicke Niang on Sunday announced the government had reversed its decision to return Mr Habre following the UN plea.
Mr Niang told state broadcaster RTS that Senegal would hold talks with the UN and European Union to try to solve the situation.
These events raise familiar questions about international law and national sovereignty. I think we become so used to such debates that itâ€™s easy to forget how blatantly the international community, and in particular European leaders, dismiss the integrity of a judicial system like Chadâ€™s. I believe the UN is right that sending HabrĂ© to Chad could result in his torture and execution and in a perversion of justice, and I understand that one of the foundations of international law is the idea that some (all?) countries have issues they cannot handle properly on their own, but it is striking to see international organizations articulate their distrust of individual countries so clearly.
That kind of distrust has implications that go beyond just HabrĂ©â€™s case. Other leaders recognize those implications. In other words, the politics of international law loom particularly large in this case, which helps explain why Senegal has preferred to keep HabrĂ© in a sort of legal limbo, or try to make him someone elseâ€™s problem, rather than moving to conclude the case. HabrĂ© is a symbol of impunity, but he is also a symbol of how hard it is, in the international legal arena, to sort out questions of when, where, and how major trials will take place.