Lawyers for former Chadian ruler Hissene Habre say their client will not recognize a tribunal set up in Senegal to try him on genocide charges stemming from his eight-year reign, which ended more than two decades ago.
Habre, who ruled Chad from 1982 until the military ousted him in 1990, is accused of overseeing more than 40,000 political killings, as well as systematic torture and other human rights violations.
The 80-year-old Habre was taken into custody Sunday at his home in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where he has lived freely since his ouster.
Defense lawyer El Hadji Diouf said Wednesday that actions taken by Senegal to establish the special tribunal had no legal basis and were part of "a deliberate effort" to imprison Habre, regardless of the evidence.
Habre was indicted in 2000 for crimes against humanity, but little progress was made in prosecuting him during the rule of Senegal's former president Abdoulaye Wade, who left office in 2012.
Late last year, Senegal's parliament ratified an agreement with the African Union to create the special tribunal. The court became operational in February and is now conducting a pretrial investigation.
Human Rights Watch says the investigation is expected to last 15 months, and will likely be followed by a months-long trial.
Earlier this week, HRW lawyer Reed Brody described the charges against Habre and his arrest as a "stunning victory" for Habre's victims, who he said never gave up hope they would one day see justice.
The Habre arrest came just days after visiting U.S. President Barack Obama met with regional judicial leaders in Dakar to discuss how the United States could help African nations in building "stronger judiciaries and systems of law."