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Senegal adopts law creating special tribunal for former Chad dictator

Senegal's national assembly adopted a law on Wednesday that will allow Senegal to create a special tribunal to try Chad's former dictator Hissene Habre [BBC backgrounder]. The law allows Senegal President Macky Sall to ratifying an accord [JURIST report] made in August with the African Union (AU) [official website] that will create the tribunal. The accord calls for "Extraordinary African Chambers" to be created inside the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar that will have sections to handle investigations, trials and appeals. Rights groups pushed for Habre's trial [AP report] through the presidency of former president Abdoulaye Wade [BBC backgrounder], who was accused of purposely avoiding Habre's trial. Habre was Chad's president from 1982 through 1990. In the 150-seat assembly, two deputies voted against the law and about a dozen did not vote.

Habre fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990 and denies charges of killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents after coming to power in a bloody coup in 1982. The AU began talks with Senegal to come up with a plan for Habre's trial after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in July that Senegal must either try Habre promptly or extradite him to Belgium for trial. The court's legally binding order also noted that Senegal had failed to make serious efforts to prosecute Habre, who has been been under house arrest there since 2005. In March lawyers for the Belgian government asked [JURIST report] the ICJ to force Senegal to bring Habre to trial in Belgium. In July 2011 Senegal reversed its decision to deport Habre [JURIST report] back to Chad after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned of possible torture. That month Pillay issued the plea [JURIST report] to stay Habre's deportation to Chad after the nation's courts sentenced him to death in absentia.

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