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Trial of Former Chad Leader Hissene Habre to Be Delayed 3 Years

  • Kari Barber

Senegalese authorities have announced that the trial of former Chadian leader Hissene Habre on charges of crimes against humanity will not take place for at least three years. Foreign Affairs Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio said Tuesday the extra time is needed to organize the judicial process. Kari Barber reports from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar that prosecutors say the delay is unnecessary.

Lawyers for the alleged victims say further delays are unfair to those who are prepared to testify against him.

Habre is to be tried on accusations that the Chadian government, under his leadership, was responsible for thousands of politically motivated tortures and killings in the 1980s.

Reed Brody, a prosecutor on behalf of Habre's accusers, says lengthy legal work is not necessary because the case has already been prepared by Belgium after initial efforts to try Habre in Senegal stalled in 2000.

"There is no reason for Senegal to start from scratch," he said. "I think it would really be a slap in the face for the victims, especially those who worked hard and provided their testimony to the Belgian team when they went to Chad to say 'OK, we are throwing all that out and start again.' That does not really take into account their rights."

But Brody says it will be the judges in the case, not Minister Gadio, who will make the decision about when the trial should begin.

Gadio says the time frame is necessary to ensure the rights of Habre and the victims are respected.

Abdou Rahmane Gueye says he was wrongfully jailed in deplorable conditions for six months by the Habre regime. He says now he is fighting, with other accusers, for a speedy trial.

Gueye says he and other alleged victims are tired of waiting. He says he is afraid that as more time passes, more accusers will die before they have the opportunity to testify.

Senegal, where Habre has lived in exile since his overthrow in 1990, agreed at an African Union summit last year to try him. The Senegalese government has had to pass new torture legislation and appeal for foreign funding to be able to hold the trial.

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