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Former President of Chad Charged With Crimes Against Humanity

  • Anne Look

Mbacke Fall (R), head of the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court set up this year by Senegalese authorities in agreement with the African Union, speaks to journalists at a news conference in Dakar, July 1, 2013.

Mbacke Fall (R), head of the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court set up this year by Senegalese authorities in agreement with the African Union, speaks to journalists at a news conference in Dakar, July 1, 2013.

Chad's ex-president Hissene Habre has been indicted for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture by a special African tribunal. Habre has lived in Dakar, Senegal, since being ousted by a coup in 1990.

The judge of the Extraordinary African Chambers - created in Senegal to try Habre - has ordered the ex-president held in prison until his trial.

Habre was arrested Sunday. He has been formally charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, which allegedly occurred during his presidency in Chad from 1982 to 1990.

Chief prosecutor Mbacke Fall said investigators have assembled strong evidence of Habre's direct involvement in these crimes. He said Habre put in place a machine of repression in 1983 that was known as the DDS, the political police. He said Habre named the agents himself, and their only job was to obtain information by violent means.

Fall said the prosecution has statements from victims, as well as documentation from the Habre regime. He said Habre regularly received written reports from his agents, and made notes on these reports and gave instructions.

Fall said the DDS was created to secure the country from outside threats, but Habre turned it against his perceived political opponents and members of certain ethnic and racial groups.

In 2001, Human Rights Watch uncovered DDS files that name 1,208 people who died or were killed in detention and 12,321 victims of human rights violations.

Habre is accused of overseeing thousands of political killings, summary executions of hundreds of war prisoners and large-scale torture of detainees.

An attorney for Habre told reporters Tuesday the charges are the result of an improper judicial investigation because prosecutors in Senegal relied on information supplied by the Chadian government. A Chadian court sentenced Habre to death in absentia in 2008.

The trial in Senegal has been more than a decade in the making.

Senegal indicted Hissene Habre in 2000 and put him under house arrest at his Dakar mansion. Efforts to try him then stalled over disputes about jurisdiction and issues such as getting international funding.

It was just this February that Senegal set up the internationally-backed Extraordinary African Chambers within its justice system to investigate and try the case.

The trial could set a landmark legal precedent for sub-Saharan African courts trying African leaders on the continent.

Pre-trial investigations are expected to last about 15 months, meaning the trial may not begin until early 2015.

Prosecutors from the Extraordinary Chambers say they also are pursuing charges against five other top members of the Habre regime, including the head of the DDS, Mahamat Djibrine, who was arrested in Chad in May.

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