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Ex-Chad dictator Habre attempting to block Senegal trial

[JURIST] Lawyers for former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] filed a complaint with the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] in October to prevent his trial for crimes against humanity in Senegal from moving forward, according to an AFP report. The move is a response to 14 Chadian and Senegalese citizens filing complaints with a Senegal prosecutor [JURIST report] in September alleging war crimes and torture by the former dictator. Habre, who has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990, fled to Senegal after being overthrown in 1990. Senegal is expected to respond to Habre's petition in order to keep the trial moving as expected.

In August, a Chadian court sentenced Habre to death in absentia [JURIST report] for crimes committed against the state. 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 either to 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 report], 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.

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