Dakar – More than 4 000 victims have been registered in the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre for atrocities committed during his presidency, their lawyers said on Monday.
Once dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, the 72-year-old has been in custody in Senegal since his arrest in June 2013 at the home he shared with his wife and children.
Rights groups say 40 000 people were killed during his eight years in power in Chad under a regime marked by fierce repression of his opponents and the targeting of rival ethnic groups.
The group “represents more than 4 000 direct and indirect victims” to be taken into account by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Chadian lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina told a news conference in the Senegalese capital.
Delayed for years by Senegal, where Habre has lived since being ousted in 1990, the hearings will set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have been tried in international courts.
Moudeina said the trial would be “a turning point for justice in Africa and will sound an alarm for all the dictators whose crimes will one day catch up with them”.
Moudeina said the case for the prosecution – particularly documents demonstrating a direct link between Habre the country’s secret police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS) – was “solid”.
“Habre had perfect knowledge of the operations of the DDS. It would not be a violation of the law if the court ordered a forced appearance of Hissene Habre,” said Me Assane Dioma Ndiaye, another lawyer for the group, addressing fears that Habre would refuse to take the stand.
Habre’s lawyers say he does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court, set up by the African Union following an agreement signed with Senegal in December 2012.
FOLLOW NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS ON FACEBOOK @ New Africa Business News.com