President Hissene Habre has been forcibly brought to court for the second day of his trial for crimes against humanity. The trial has been suspended until 7 September after Mr Habre and his lawyers refused to speak to the judge. The court in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, has now appointed new lawyers to represent him. Habre denies responsibility for the deaths and disappearance of thousands of people between 1982 and 1990. The newly appointed lawyers have 45 days to prepare their case.
“You have the duty to defend Hissene Habre even against his will so a fair trial can take place,” the judge told them.
Habre was surrounded by security guards at the front of the courtroom to avoid the chaotic scene witnessed on the first day. Proceedings were halted on Monday when he refused to recognise the authority of the court. It led to commotion in the courtroom as he was thrown out by prison guards.
The trial marks the first time one African country has prosecuted the former leader of another. It follows a 25-year campaign to bring him to justice.
Addressing the court on Monday, victims’ lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina said the trial was “in the name of humanity, a humanity which Hissene Habre never allowed his victims”. Many of Mr Habre’s alleged victims have been calling for him to face justice since his overthrow and exile in Senegal in 1990.
Parallels were later drawn with the attempts to get the former Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet extradited and put on trial for crimes against humanity in Spain in 1998,
A Chadian truth commission found in 1992 that the Habre regime was responsible for 40,000 deaths and disappearances. In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for his arrest, claiming universal jurisdiction but, after Senegal referred the issue to the African Union, the AU asked Senegal to try Mr Habre “on behalf of Africa”. leading him to to be called “Africa’s Pinochet”.
Progress has been slow, as Senegal’s previous President Abdoulaye Wade appeared to be reluctant to put him on trial. He first said the country lacked funding and then, apparently fed up with the process, suggested Habre should be sent back to Chad where he had already been sentenced to death.
President Macky Sall, elected in 2012, agreed to a trial in a special tribunal set up within the Senegalese court system, and in 2013 the African Extraordinary Chambers was established with AU backing.
The court was set up to deal with crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990. Habre was indicted in 2013, but he refused to co-operate with the special court. BBC