[JURIST] Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] and eleven other rebel commanders were sentenced to death Friday in a Chadian court for crimes against the state after a mass trial in which dozens were tried. Habre is currently living in Senegal where he is to be eventually tried [JURIST report] on charges for murder and torture. The court, lead by Judge Ngarhondo Dgide, issued no warrants for the defendants and they mounted no legal defense during the hearings. Among those sentenced were Mahamat Nouri [Nationmaster profile], Habre's defense minister, and Timane Erdimi, the cousin of current Chadian President Idriss Deby [BBC profile]. Both Erdimi and Habre's lawyer said they had heard nothing official about the proceedings. At the same trial 32 others were sentenced in absentia to life in prison with hard labor for attempting to "overturn constitutional order". The International Herald Tribune has more. Al-Jazeera has additional coverage.
Habre has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. Senegal courts have long refused to extradite Habre, despite the issuance of an international arrest warrant [JURIST reports] by Belgium pursuant to its universal jurisdiction laws [HRW backgrounder]. Under growing international pressure to either try Habre locally or extradite him to Belgium, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade [official profile, in French; BBC profile] agreed in April 2006 to try him in Senegal and the Senegalese government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. Previously the Senegalese courts dismissed an action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that they lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere. In July this year Senegal formally adopted [JURIST report] a constitutional amendment giving the nation's courts jurisdiction over Habre's trial.