The Extraordinary African Chambers [official website] in Senegal on Monday began the trial of former Chadian leader Hissène Habré [BBC profile] on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes. Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982-1990, denies the charges calling the proceedings a “farce” [BBC report]. But human rights groups report thousands of deaths under his rule and have called the trial [HRW press release] “a tribute to the survivors of his brutal rule who never gave up fighting for justice.” This is the first universal jurisdiction case heard in Africa under the African Union agreement [text, PDF].
Habré, who fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990, was indicted [JURIST report] by the Extraordinary African Chambers in July 2013 and placed in pretrial detention. In March, a criminal court in Chad sentenced [JURIST report] Habré-era police officers to prison tor torture. In 2013 more than 1,000 victims filed [JURIST report] for civil party status, asking the Extraordinary African Chambers to officially recognize them as parties with an interest in the matter. The African Union [official website] began talks with Senegal to come up with a plan for Habré’s trial after the International Court of Justice [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in July 2012 that Senegal must either try Habré promptly or extradite him to Belgium for trial.