The Chad public prosecutor's office announced on Wednesday that it has arrested Mahamat Djibrine, a former political police chief suspected of torture and hundreds of politically motivated killings in the 1980s. Djibrine was in charge of the Directorate of Documentation and Service (DDS) political police under then-president Hissene Habre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], and was arrested [AFP report] after DDS victims filed a lawsuit accusing him of torture, acts of barbarism and illegal detention. He could be extradited to Senegal, as mandated by the African Union (AU) [official website] to try Habre in 2006, though Senegal has delayed Habre's prosecution for years. Until now, African leaders accused of such gross crimes have been tried only in international courts, and Habre's trial could set a historic precedent.
Earlier this month Senegal and Chad signed an agreement [JURIST report] allowing Senegalese judges to carry out investigations in Chad in preparation for the prosecution of Habre. 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 1982. The AU began talks with Senegal to come up with a plan for Habre's trial after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) 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 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.