Sunday, June 30, 2013
Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, is reportedly now in police custody in Senegal as of June 30, according to a press release from Human Rights Watch. Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his presidency, from 1982 to 1990, when he was deposed by President Idriss Deby Itno and fled to Senegal. He has been living in exile in Senegal ever since. After a 22-year campaign by his victims, the Extraordinary African Chambers were established in the Senegalese court system in February to prosecute the worst crimes during his rule. The chambers can prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad between June 7, 1982, and December 1, 1990.
The chambers’ chief prosecutor, Mbacké Fall, reportedly asked to have Habré taken into police custody (garde à vue). Under Senegalese law, a person may be detained for up to 48 hours for investigation purposes if there is evidence to believe that they have committed an offense. The detention can be extended for another 48 hours with the prosecutor’s permission.
The prosecutor is expected to bring charges (réquisitoire introductif) before the investigating judges of the chambers and request Habré’s indictment before his period of police custody expires. If Habré is indicted by the judges, he could be remanded to custody (mandat de dépôt) while the judges carry out their pretrial investigation.
According to Human RIghts Watch, the pretrial investigation is expected to last 15 months. It will potentially be followed by a trial in late 2014 or 2015.
“I have been waiting more than two decades to see Hissène Habré in court,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissène Habré’s Regime (AVCRHH) who as a political prisoner during Habré’s rule was forced to dig mass graves and bury hundreds of other detainees. “We are finally going to be able to confront our tormentor and regain our dignity as human beings.”