Human Rights Watch reports that President Obama, on his visit today to Senegal, praised the establishment of the Extraordinary African Chambers earlier this year and said that the United States would provide financial support. The establishment of the Chambers was a response to the judgment of the International Court of Justice, in a case filed by Belgium, that last July found Senegal to be in breach of the Torture Convention for its failure to prosecute or extradite Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad.
While the prosecution of Habré is commendable, the whole business shows the hypocrisy of some of the supporters of international criminal justice. Among the most shocking examples of torture over the past decade are those attributable to the United States, at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Like Senegal, the United States is a party to the Torture Convention. Belgium was keen enough to go after Senegal but why is it not as aggressive when it comes to the United States? Instead of praising the United States for its endorsement of the Habré proceedings and its pledge of assistance, we should be reminding the world of the double standards that are at work. No wonder so many Africans ask questions about the validity of the international justice project.