The International Court of Justice has ruled that Senegal must begin proceedings to try Chad’s former leader Hissene Habre “without delay”.

Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habre leaves Dakar's courthouse escorted by prison guards 25 November 2005

Otherwise, he should be extradited to face trial in Belgium, the court’s legally binding ruling said.

The 69 year old has been been under house arrest since 2005 in Senegal, where he fled after being deposed.

He denies charges of killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents.

The charges relate from 1982, when Mr Habre came to power in a coup, until he was ousted in 1990.

The UN’s highest court has been investigating whether he should be tried in Senegal or extradited to Belgium, after Senegal previously refused four extradition requests.

President Macky Saul, who came to power in March, has indicated that he would be willing to prosecute Mr Habre in a special tribunal.

Amnesty International called on Senegal to abide by Friday’s ruling by the ICJ.

“This is a victory for victims that’s long overdue, and now it’s high time the courts in Senegal delivered justice,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty’s law and policy programme director.

‘Policy of terror’
Dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, Mr Habre was first indicted in Senegal in 2000 – but the country’s courts ruled at the time that he could not be tried there.

His alleged victims then filed complaints under Belgium’s universal jurisdiction law, which allows the country’s judges to prosecute human rights offences committed anywhere in the world.  Read more…