Senegalese court to rule on extradition of Chad's dictator

Senegalese court was due to rule Tuesday on the extradition to Belgium of Hissene Habre, the former dictator of Chad, wanted for war crimes committed during his eight-year reign. Habre was arrested on Nov. 15 at his home in Senegal's capital, Dakar, where he had been living in exile with his family since being ousted by rebels in his homeland in 1990.

After last week's preliminary hearing, one of Habre's lawyer El Hadji Diouf told reporters that a decision was expected on Tuesday. The hearing was due to start at 1000 GMT, private radio Walf Fadrji announced. Habre's lawyer could not be reach for comment. "Senegal has an absolute obligation to extradite him to a country that is willing to try him," said Reed Brody, a researcher for New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch who has long campaigned for Habre's trial. "We are hopeful," he added.

Belgium had issued an international arrest warrant for Habre under its "universal jurisdiction" laws, which allow for prosecutions for crimes against humanity wherever they were committed.

The Senegalese court must first rule on whether Habre can be handed over to Belgium, then President Abdoulaye Wade will have to approve it.

Last week, Wade refused to say whether he would do so. Speaking to reporters at a summit in Tunis, he said the alleged atrocities committed by Habre were a problem for Africans to address.

Senegal's high court dismissed war crimes charges against Habre in 2001, ruling it had no jurisdiction.

A commission set up in Chad in 1992 accused Habre's regime of 40,000 political killings and 200,000 cases of torture. Habre, a French-trained military tactician, had ruled Chad with the backing of France and the United States, which saw his regime as a buffer against Chad's northern neighbor, Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, reports the AP. I.L.

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