Dakar – Hissene Habre, former Chadian dictator, was carried into court and restrained by masked security guards, as charges were read at the re-start of his trial for crimes against humanity during his 1982-1990 rule.
Habre, who was accused of responsibility for thousands of killings and cases of torture during his eight-year rule, has refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court.
A media report on Monday in Dakar said Habre shouted “Shut up! Shut up!” at the clerk, as the indictment was read.
It said Habre had to be restrained in his seat by three balaclava-wearing police officers, as he shouted abuse at the court.
Reed Brody, a Counsel at Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habre’s victims since 1999, said Habre could make all the noise.
He said his noise was not enough to decide whether he should be tried, or if the victims get justice.
Brody said the trial capped 15 years of battle by victims and rights campaigners to bring the former strongman to justice in Senegal.
Critiques said the trial was suspended in July, after his lawyers refused to appear before the special AU-backed court.
They noted that the case marked the first time, which the former head of one African nation, would be tried by a court in another.
They were of the opinion that a successful trial, conducted to high standards and leading to a credible verdict, would strengthen African countries’ argument that they can try their own leaders.
This would be amid criticism of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for indicting only Africans.
They said the 72-year-old former leader, who faces charges of war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, could face a maximum of life in prison.
The critics said dozens of victims have signified their intentions to fly to Dakar to testify at the trial, thanks to the cooperation of the Chadian government.
Fatimé Sakine, 53, a secretary who was tortured during 15 months in prison from 1984 to 1986 said, “Hissene Habre was the absolute king in Chad, throwing people in jail, having them tortured as he pleased, and now he’s acting like a spoiled child.
“He’s just afraid of us and afraid of the truth,’’ she said.
Another victim noted that when the victims first brought their case in 2000 to Senegal, courts ruled that they did not have the authority to try crimes committed in Chad.
He said AU later refused to extradite Habre to face trial in Belgium and asked Senegal to pass legislation giving its court’s jurisdiction for foreign crimes.
He said it was not until Senegalese President, Macky Sall, took office in 2012, that the process picked up speed, with the creation of the Extraordinary African Tribunal (CAE) a year later. (Reuters/NAN)