Monday, July 16, 2007

Hissène Habré to face trial in Senegal

The government of Senegal has announced that it is "nearly ready" to begin the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for war crimes and crimes against humanity resulting in over 40,000 people killed. Habré is accused of launching a nearly genocidal assault on ethnic minority groups opposed to central rule, and directing his secret police to kidnap, torture and murder tens of thousands of political prisoners during his eight year reign between 1982 and 1990. After his 1990 ouster by Chad's current president, Idriss Déby, Habré fled to Senegal to escape the vengeance of his victims.

In 2005, the government of Belgium invoked its ludicrous "universal jurisdiction" law (which had expired two years earlier) to indict Habré on war crimes charges, and demanded that the Senegalese extradite Habré to Belgium to face trial. The Senegalese government, somewhat sensibly, told the Belgians to forget it, saying that they don't recognize Belgium's self-appointed authority to indict war criminals, especially under an expired law. So is Habré going to get off scot free?

Apparently not. The Senegalese parliament has recently passed a law to allow Habré to face trial in Senegal, and placed him under house arrest. Furthermore, the Senegalese have rejected calls for a special tribunal for the Habré trial, opting instead for a regular criminal court, claiming that the creation of a special tribunal would cost upwards of $90,000,000. The figure sounds preposterous, until one realizes that the tribunal created for the late Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milošević cost nearly $300,000,000. Senegal won't be doing this on the cheap, however, and said they have plans to "transport and protect" over 20,000 witnesses against Habré to Senegal to take part in the trial. The Europeans are fuming about how long it's taking to bring Habré to trial, but then again, none of them are offering to pay for it, either.

The Senegalese are determined to give Habré a "fair" trial, but skepticism abounds that the government has the will to convict someone of such prominent notoriety who had been living out in the open for so long. Other questions linger, too. Will Habré's political connections inside Senegal be a help, or a hindrance? Will the Belgians continue to sulk about being dissed by Senegal? And, oh yeah, what about Habré's victims? Anyone remember them?


Lexi said...


I'm sorry to bother you, but I think you might be able to help me. I am trying to identify a particular African dictator from a photo I took from Arthur Edelstein's site. The site has now gone, and it's frustrating because I can't find him, though I've searched.

The picture is on the most recent post on my blog,



Lexi said...

I'm extremely grateful. I thought you'd know, looking at your blog.

Thanks a lot, it was niggling me.