News / Africa

Former Chad Dictator Faces Charges of War Crimes

FILE - Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005.
FILE - Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005.
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VOA News
Prosecutors in Senegal say preliminary evidence collected against former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre could lead to charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.

Habre will appear Tuesday before a special court set up in Senegal to investigate allegations of crimes during his presidency in Chad from 1982 until 1990.

Following his presidency, Habre lived freely in Senegal for 22 years before he was arrested Sunday.

Judges will decide Tuesday whether to formally charge him and whether to extend his provisional detention.

Who is Hissene Habre?

  • Born in 1942 in northern Chad
  • Son of shepherds, given scholarship to study in France
  • His Northern Armed Forces captured three European hostages in 1974 and held them for ransom
  • Seized power in 1982
  • Ousted in 1990 by current President Idriss Deby
  • Had lived freely in Senegal for 22 years
  • His Documentation and Security Directorate is accused of 40,000 political killings and systematic torture
Chief prosecutor Mbacke Fall says Habre personally oversaw a system of repression during his eight years in power in Chad, and that his political police force was used as a weapon of terror.

Habre's lawyer, El Hadji Diouf, says he "rejects everything the prosecutor said; it's all false." He says a president can not know what is going on inside of police stations.

Habre is accused of overseeing more than 40,000 political killings, systematic torture and human rights violations.

The former dictator was first indicted in Senegal for alleged crimes against humanity in 2000, but little progress was made under the government of former president Abdoulaye Wade.

Last December, Senegal’s national assembly ratified an agreement with the African Union to create a special tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers.  The court became operational in February and is now in the pre-trial investigation phase.

Human Rights Watch says the pre-trial investigations are expected to last 15 months and likely will be followed by a seven-month trial in late 2014 or 2015, and a five-month appeals process.

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