Thursday, December 20, 2012

Senegal Adopts Legislation to Try Hissene Habre for War Crimes

After more than a decade of effort, the Senegal National Assembly adopted legislation yesterday that will create Extraordinary Chambers within the Senegalese court system to try the former president of Chad, Mr. Hissene Habre, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his rule from 1982-1990.

The decision follows a series of international events, including the July 2012 judgment by the International Court of Justice (disussed in this earlier post) that ordered Senegal to prosecute Habre without delay or extradite him to Belgium for trial.  The legislative action also follows an agreement with the international community to fund the legal proceedings in the amount of 7.4 million euros. 

The new Extraordinary Chambers will handle investigations, trials, and appeals. The Chambers will prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad between June 7, 1982, and December 1, 1990. The trial chamber and the appeals chamber will each consist of two Senegalese judges and one non-Senegalese judge from an African Union member country, who will preside over the proceedings.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Extraordinary Chambers Statute provides for the participation of victims at all stages of the proceedings as civil parties, represented by counsel, and says that the victims may also be awarded reparations. The chambers’ budget allows for the recording of all proceedings as well as the establishment of an extensive outreach program so that the trial can have a positive and educational impact in Chad and elsewhere.


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