This decision was reached at the end of a cabinet meeting, last Friday, and made public in the form of a statement released to the media.
“The President of the Republic has informed cabinet that the ECOWAS court considers that Senegal cannot try the former Chadian president,” the cabinet statement read. “He has thus committed to implement this decision by handing the Habre dossier back to the African Union.”
This is in line with an ECOWAS ruling, passed in November, which declared that Senegal cannot singly try the former Chadian leader. African Union, in 2006, had asked Senegal to try him on behalf of the continent.
Hissene Habre stands accused of crimes against humanity, for the killing and torturing of thousands during his repressive rule between 1982 and 1990. He was himself toppled in a coup, and he fled to Senegal where he has since been living.
Human rights activists and family members of victims have never allowed him to rest. The Senegal government has itself shared some disapproval for its seeming indifferent attitude toward efforts to have Habre answer to his crimes. Accordingly, the former Chadian leader would be the first African leader to be tried on such charges on the continent.
The Senegalese government, however, has constantly complained about the cost of undertaking such a legal process. A November meeting of international donors in Dakar resulted in the pledging of 8.5 million euro, which falls far short of the 27 million euro (US$36 million) Senegal has constantly demanded to get the project started.