The Time of Human Justice & the Time of Human Beings: Belgium V. Senegal & Temporal Restraints on the Duty to Prosecute

By Buatte, Trent | The George Washington International Law Review, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Time of Human Justice & the Time of Human Beings: Belgium V. Senegal & Temporal Restraints on the Duty to Prosecute


Buatte, Trent, The George Washington International Law Review


I. Introduction

On a summer morning in 1987, secret police descended upon the tiny village of Bitkine in the middle of Chad.1 They immedi- ately rounded up a massive group of Hadjaraï minorities and spir- ited them away to makeshift prisons across the country.2 Among those arrested was Godi Bani, a young man from the village.3 Godi was bound and beaten and eventually immured with 1,000 other prisoners in a large room that formerly served as a feed store.4 Packed in like cattle, Godi was left to sit for days on end and wait for his certain death.

The guards were perversely creative in their punishments.5 At one point, they served the prisoners poisoned millet.6 Ninety-three people died that day, and their bodies were left in the room to decompose for four more days.7 The guards were more direct with other prisoners, employing techniques such as le pot d'echappement ("the serving of exhaust," in which a victim's mouth was placed around a car's exhaust pipe while an officer revved the engine), electrocution, severe binding treatments, and eventually summary execution.8 When the prison was liberated over a year later in December 1988, Godi was one of five prisoners still alive.9

Godi's gruesome story is common among survivors of Hissène Habré's eight-year rule in Chad. From 1982 to 1990, Habré waged a campaign against his own countrymen to solidify his power and eliminate all political opposition.10 Over the course of eight years, Habré oversaw the systematic arrest, detention, torture, and killing of an estimated 40,000 Chadians.11 After his bloody ouster in 1990, Habré escaped from N'Djamena with over $6.62 million in stolen state funds and sought refuge in a posh neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal.12 For the past thirteen years, survivors of Habré's vicious regime have fruitlessly attempted to hold the former dictator accountable for torture and crimes against humanity.13

After initially denying victims relief in its courts,14 the Senegalese government sought the advice of the African Union (AU)15 and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).16 Meanwhile, twenty-one survivors filed claims of torture and crimes against humanity against Habré under Belgium's universal jurisdic- tion laws.17 After four years of investigation, Judge Daniel Fransen of the Brussels District Court issued an international arrest warrant in September 2005, and the Belgian government immediately asked for Habré's extradition from Senegal.18 For seven years, Senegal repeatedly refused to either extradite Habré to Belgium or try him in its own courts.19 Although Senegal's national assembly amended its constitution in 2008 to incorporate provisions of the Convention Against Torture (Torture Convention)20 into its penal code and allow for retroactive application of such provisions,21 the government continued to balk at the opportunity to prosecute Habré.

Faced with an increasingly obstinate Senegalese government, in 2009, Belgium applied to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to have the court clarify Senegal's legal obligations under interna- tional law.22 For the first time in the ICJ's history, the court was asked to directly determine the extent to which countries have a binding duty to prosecute or extradite ( aut dedere aut judicare)23 individuals accused of grave international crimes.24 To answer this question, Belgium asked the court to examine both a specific appli- cation of aut dedere aut judicare under article 7 of the Torture Con- vention, as well as a very broad application of the principle as it relates to the customary international law of crimes against humanity.25

Finally, on July 20, 2012, more than twelve years after victims originally filed complaints in Senegalese courts, the ICJ handed down its decision, finding Senegal in violation of its duty to prose- cute under the Torture Convention.26 In its final judgment, the ICJ made a number of key findings: (1) the court only had jurisdic- tion over the narrower issue involving the Torture Convention and not Belgium's broader argument pertaining to the customary inter- national law status of aut dedere aut judicare27 (2) the Torture Con- vention granted Belgium standing to invoke the responsibility of Senegal on behalf of victims;28 (3) Senegal violated article 6(2) of the Torture Convention by failing to conduct an immediate investi- gation into allegations against Habré; and (4) Senegal violated arti- cle 7(1) of the Torture Convention by failing to institute proceedings against Habré within a reasonable time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Time of Human Justice & the Time of Human Beings: Belgium V. Senegal & Temporal Restraints on the Duty to Prosecute
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.