Dakar, Feb. 4 : Senegal will inaugurate a special court on February 8, 2013, that will try the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habré, marking a turning point in the long campaign to bring Habré to justice.
The Extraordinary African Chambers within the Senegalese judicial system was created by agreement with the African Union (AU). The pretrial investigation, by four Senegalese magistrates, is expected to last 15 months. The investigation will potentially be followed by a trial in 2014, at which a non-Senegalese judge appointed by the AU will preside.
Habré's trial would mark the first time that the courts of one country tried the leader of another country for alleged human rights crimes.
"After 22 years of tenacity and perseverance, Hissene Habré's victims will finally get their day in court," said Reed Brody, legal counsel for Human Rights Watch who has worked with Habré's victims since 1999. ``Senegal is sending a powerful message to leaders in Africa and elsewhere that if they commit atrocity crimes against their own people, they could also be brought to justice one day."
Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his presidency, from 1982 to 1990. He has been living in exile in Senegal for more than 22 years.
Brody will be in Dakar for the opening of the court. Jacqueline Moudeina, lawyer for Habré's victims and president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, will also be there. They will be available for comment.
Others available in Dakar include Alioune Tine, president of the Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died during almost three years of mistreatment in Habré's prisons and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissene Habré (AVCRHH), and Assane Dioma Ndiaye, who heads the victims' Senegalese legal team. (ANI)