[JURIST] Chad’s ex-President Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was charged by Senegalese prosecutors on Monday with war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity. Habre will appear before the Extraordinary African Chambers [statute, in French], a special court set up in Senegal to investigate the allegations against him, and he could face life in prison [AP report] if convicted. 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. If brought to trial, Habre would be the first African leader [BBC report] to face charges of crimes against humanity in a fellow African country.
Habre had spent the last eight years on house arrest until Senegalese police detained [JURIST report] him on Sunday. 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. The court’s legally binding order also noted that Senegal had failed at that time to make any serious efforts to prosecute him. Earlier that year, lawyers for the Belgian government had asked [JURIST report] the ICJ to force Senegal to bring Habre to trial in Belgium. In 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 his deportation to Chad after the nation’s courts sentenced him to death in absentia.