Rights groups urge Senegal not to send Habre to Chad

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2011 12:03 PM
Rights groups urge Senegal not to send Habre to Chad

DAKAR, July 9 (Reuters) - Human rights groups urged Senegal Saturday not to extradite former Chadian president Hissene Habre to Chad on the grounds that he might not get a fair trial there, having already been sentenced to death in absentia.

Chadian authorities said Friday that Habre would be sent back home on a Senegalese-chartered flight Monday and promised he would receive a fair trial.

Habre, 69, who was ousted in a coup in December 1990 by current president Idriss Deby, has been accused of thousands of killings and other atrocities during his 8-year rule over the Central African state.

He has lived in Senegal since the coup.

Amnesty said Habre faced an unfair trial and the death penalty, which would not bring justice for the thousands who suffered during his rule.

"Senegalese authorities must not send Hissene Habre back to Chad where he faces the death penalty, the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and where he will not receive a fair trial," Erwin van der Borght, Africa Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch's legal counsel, who has worked for 12 years with Habre's victims, said any trial must be fair and fully respect Habre's rights.

"We do not believe that the conditions exist for him to get a fair trial in Chad and we are worried that his security could be in danger," Brody said in a statement.

"Habre has already been sentenced to death in absentia by a Chadian court for unrelated crimes. We want justice, not the guillotine," he said.

During more than a decade of stalling and wrangling over where Habre should stand trial, Senegal said at first it did not have the jurisdiction to hold a trial. Once the law was changed, Dakar said it also lacked the funds for such a trial.

The African Union has pushed Senegal to try Habre, extradite him to Belgium, which issued an international arrest warrant for him in 2005, or send him back to Chad if the death sentence against him is lifted so that he can stand trial before an internationally constituted court.

"We have never requested that Hissene Habre be extradited to Chad, we request that Senegal judge him or extradite him to Belgium, I do not think he can receive a fair trial there (in Chad)," said Demba Cire Bathily, a lawyer for a number of Chadians who suffered during Habre's rule.

Habre's lawyer said the former president would continue to fight the charges and the attempts to extradite him, adding that some of the rules regarding his extradition had not been respected.

"This is a kidnapping. Habre is being held hostage so that they can send him home where he will be assassinated," said the lawyer, El Hadj Diouf.

(Reporting by Bate Felix and Diadie Ba, editing by Tim Pearce)