More than 1,000 victims of former Chad dictator Hissene Habre [BBC profile] filed for civil party status on Thursday, asking the Extraordinary African Chambers of Senegal [IJRC summary] to offcially recognize them as parties with an interest in the matter. Led by Jacqueline Moudeina [Right Livelihood profile], a human rights litigator, nearly 300 applicants claim to be direct victims of Habre, while hundreds more are applying for status based on the rights of deceased family members. Five of the applicants described [AP report] the ordeals they endured to the court in Senegal, and requested that the court establish a benefit fund for survivors. Habre's counsel responded by accusing the opposition of making a move for sympathy to bias the court, noting that the organizations acting on behalf of the victims receive gratuitous funding from the same political parties that removed Habre from office. The court has not yet indicated how it will respond to the large number of applications.
Habre [JURIST news archive] was charged by Senegalese prosecutors earlier this month with war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. Known as "Africa's Pinochet," the former Chadian dictator must answer claims that members of his tightly managed Secret Service tortured and killed up to 40,000 people during his reign from 1982-90. Habre is the first African leader [BBC report] to face charges of crimes against humanity in a fellow African country. The African Union [official website] 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] last July that Senegal must either try Habre promptly or extradite him to Belgium for trial.