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144-Questions relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium vs Senegal)

On February 19th, 2009, Belgium filed an application instituting proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Senegal regarding the situation of Chad’s former President, Mr. Hissene Habre, who had obtained the right to asylum on Senegale territory in 1990. The requesting State contended that the refusal to prosecute or extradite Mr Habre he was alleged to have committed during his presidency constituted a violation of Article 7 of Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention) as well as customary international law.

Belgium accompanied its application with a request for indication of provisional measures requesting that Senegal takes ” all the steps within its power to keep Mr. H. Habré under the control and surveillance of the judicial authorities of Senegal so that the rules of international law with which Belgium requests compliance may be correctly applied”. In its order of May 28th, 2009, the ICJ ruled that the guarantees presented by Senegal were sufficient and that the circumstances of this case did not justify the pronouncement of these measures.

Order of 28-05-2009.pdf

The Court ruled on the merits of the case in its judgment of July 20th, 2012 and began by looking into its own jurisdiction and confined its analysis to the  issue of Senegal’s violation of Articles 6 paragraph 2 and 7 paragraph 1 of the Convention and excluded the question of whether Senegal was required to initiate proceedings against a foreign national for crimes allegedly committed abroad according to customary international law.

After confirming that Belgium’s requests were admissible, the ICJ examined the pleas presented to it:

  1. With regards to the alleged violation of Article 6 paragraph 2 of the Convention: the Court noted that Senegal did not present any evidence that it had conducted an investigation following the complaints lodged in 2000 and 2008 against the former President of Chad. Since this investigation is prescribed in the article referred to in the plea, the ICJ concluded that the Court had breached its obligations under the aforementioned provision;
  2. With regards to the alleged violation of Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Convention: the ICJ concluded that the obligation provided for in this provision required Senegal to take all the necessary measures for its implementation as soon as possible, in particular once the first complaint was filed against Mr. Habre in 2000. Senegal having not done so, it had failed, and continued to fail its obligation under article 7 paragraph 1 of the Convention;

In view of these conclusions, Senegal was urged by the Court to take without further delays, the necessary measures in order to seize the competent authorities to start the criminal proceedings or choose to extradite Mr Habre.

Judgment of 20-07-2012.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.