African Union, Senegal discuss how to try Chad ex-dictator
African Union experts and Senegal officials were on Saturday poring over how to organise the trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre for crimes against humanity.
The previous day, the UN top court ruled that Habre must be tried or else extradited to Belgium, and Senegal agreed to go ahead with proceedings this year against the 70-year-old who lives in its capital Dakar.
Habre has spent more than 20 years living free in Senegal as courts and governments have tussled over who should try him for atrocities committed during his rule from 1982-1990.
His regime was marked by fierce repression and the targeting of ethnic groups. A 1992 truth commission report said that he presided over up to 40,000 political murders and widespread torture.
Senegal pledged Friday to put Habre on trial, after the Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled that it must submit his case to its competent authorities for prosecution if it does not extradite him.
Habre has lived in Dakar since he was deposed by current Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, a former associate who rebelled against him.
Senegal’s president since April, Macky Sall — unlike his stalling predecessor Abdoulaye Wade — said last Sunday at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa that he had a “strong commitment” to see Senegal try Habre.
Senegal had said as far back as 2006, following AU requests, that it would try Habre, but it never organised a trial. Early in June, Senegal set up a working group into Habre’s case, in line with its earlier commitment.
The justice ministry said the creation of the working group and the launch early Friday in Dakar of talks with the AU experts about the modalities of the trial were proof of Senegal’s determination to bring Habre to justice.
The talks, expected to last until Tuesday, will also outline which jurisdiction will take on the case. Justice ministry spokesman Marcel Mendy told AFP that the court would have Senegalese and foreign judges.
Belgium issued an arrest warrant against Habre in 2005, after a Belgian citizen of Chadian origin filed a complaint against him in 2000 under Belgium’s “universal competence” law.
The law allows those accused of crimes under international law that have affected Belgians to be tried in Belgium.
Brussels has since filed several unsuccessful extradition requests to bring Habre to Belgium on charges including crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture.