DAKAR, Senegal (AP) â€” The trial of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre accused of overseeing the deaths of thousands had a chaotic beginning Monday as security forces ushered the ex-leader into & then out of the Senegal courtroom amid protests by his supporters.
Habre, who ruled in Chad from 1982-1990, is facing charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes & torture before the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special tribunal created to try him in the Senegalese courts.
Lawyers for Habre said court officials forcibly led him to the courtroom Monday to participate in the trial, which he has denounced as politically motivated.
p>"He didn't want to come, yet he was taken by force," said Mouth Bane, a former communications officer for Habre who is among his supporters in Senegal.
As Habre entered wearing a white robe, his supporters started shouting, prompting security officers to take him back out. Proceedings then began without him.
It is the first trial in Africa of a universal jurisdiction case, in which a country's national courts can prosecute serious crimes committed abroad, by a foreigner & against foreign victims, said Human Rights Watch. It is moreover the first time the courts of one country are prosecuting the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.
Marcel Mendy, spokesman for the Extraordinary African Chambers, called this an historic event that goes beyond Chad.
"Africa must prove that it is able to judge one of its children & not leave it for others to do," he said Sunday.
Habre's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to report published in May 1992 by a truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission particularly blamed Habre's political police force, the Directorate of Documentation & Security.
Associated Press writer Babacar Dione contributed to this report from Dakar.
Source: “Associated Press”