DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The trial for Chad’s ex-dictator Hissene Habre, accused in the deaths of thousands, represents justice for Chad victims and a path toward reconciliation, the country’s justice minister said Wednesday.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, established by Senegal and the African Union, is trying Habre for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, in an unprecedented case of one African country prosecuting the former ruler of another.
“This is a historic trial for Africa, and represents justice for Chad victims,” Minister of Justice and Human Rights Mahamat Issa Halikimi said Wednesday in Senegal. “This will permit Chad to find reconciliation, and that is what’s most important.”
Habre’s government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, said Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari, citing a report published in May 1992 by a 10-member truth commission formed by Chad’s current President Idriss Deby.
On March 25, Chad’s Criminal Court convicted 20 top security agents during Habre’s rule to life sentences and ordered they pay reparations to over 7,000 victims, according to Human Rights Watch.
Chad’s government has offered about $3 million to support the trial in Senegal against Habre, Bakari said.
Habre’s trial was suspended on Tuesday until Sept. 7 to allow court-appointed lawyers to prepare his defense, after he refused representation.
The former leader dismisses the tribunal as politically motivated.
In 1990 Habre was overthrown and fled to Senegal, where he was eventually charged in 2013.
Habre risks 30 years in jail if found guilty by the court, set up to try the ex-leader for the crimes during his rule from 1982-1990.
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