Prosecutor says Chad's Habré could face life imprisonment

Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habré is escorted by Senegalese military officers after being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity and remanded him in custody on Tuesday July 2, 2013 in Dakar. PHOTO | AFP 

Chad's ex-president Hissene Habré has been charged in Senegal with genocide, crimes against humanity and torture by a special court in Dakar, Senegal.

He was charged on Tuesday July 2 and remanded in custody.

Prosecutor Mbacké Fall of the special court has said the former Chadian dictator could face up to 30 years in jail or life imprisonment if found guilty. He said that the allegations levelled against Habré “are legion and highly justifiable”.

He said about 125 witnesses are expected to take the stand against the former leader during the trial that will last for 27 months. The official investigation could take up to 15 months.

The 70-year-old denies killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents.

The is prosecution seen by many as a milestone for African justice.

Habré — once dubbed "Africa's Pinochet" — had been in a police cell in the Senegalese capital since his arrest on Sunday at the home he shares with his wife and children.

Delayed for years by Senegal where he has lived since being ousted in 1990, Habre's trial will set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.

Delayed process

Senegal and the African Union signed an agreement in December to set up the special court to try Habré for the offences.

The AU had mandated Senegal to try Habré in July 2006, but the country stalled the process for years under previous president Abdoulaye Wade.

Habré was also wanted for trial in Belgium on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges after three Belgian nationals of Chadian origin filed suit in 2000 for arbitrary arrest, mass murder and torture.

Macky Sall, Wade's successor who took office in April last year, ruled out extraditing Habre to Belgium, which was prepared to try him, vowing to organise a trial in Senegal.

Speaking on the local RFM radio on Monday evening following the arrest, the Prosecutor Sall denied allegations by Habré's lawyer Elhadj Diouf that the former dictator was “kidnapped” from his home.

It is estimated the trial will cost about US$4 million to conduct, which will include air fare to transport witnesses from Chad.

Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 when he was deposed by the incumbent president of Chad, Colonel Idriss Deby.

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