The United Nations human rights chief today expressed deep concern over an announcement by the Senegalese Government that former Chadian president Hissène Habré would be extradited to his country where he has already been sentenced to death in absentia.
Government of Senegal reportedly informed officials in Chad that the former Chadian dictator would be sent back to Chad tomorrow, according to a statement issued by the office of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“I urge the Government of Senegal to review its decision and to ensure that Habré'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,” said Ms. Pillay said.
“As 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,” she added.
Ms. Pillay said extraditing Mr. Habré in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law.
She stressed that it was essential that Mr. Habré faces a trial that is fair and adheres to due process. His physical safety must be ensured at all times, Ms. Pillay said.
“Justice and accountability are of paramount importance and must be attained through a fair process in accordance with human rights law,” she added.
Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, when he was overthrown and went into exile in Senegal, and it is alleged that during his rule thousands of Chadians were tortured and unlawful killings and other serious human rights violations took place.
Although he was charged in February 2000 by a lower court in Senegal's capital, Dakar, an appeals court later ruled that Senegalese courts did not have the legal competence to try such cases if they were perpetrated in another country.
But then in April 2008, Senegal's National Assembly adopted an amendment to the constitution that, along with previous changes, allowed the country's legal system to deal with such cases.
In May 2009 UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order leaving former Chadian Mr. Habré in the custody of Senegal where he has lived under house arrest.
Belgium had lodged a request to the ICJ in February 2009 to bar Mr. Habré from leaving Senegal while his trial is pending. It had also sought to have him extradited to face charges in Belgium, citing among other things procedural delays in Senegal's handling of the case.
In its order, the ICJ found that “there does not exist, in the circumstances of the present case, any urgency to justify” Belgium's bid.