“Africa’s Pinochet” dragged to court, US hails landmark trial

Hissen Habre

Hissene Habre, not cooperating with the Senegal Court

The former ruler of Chad Hissène Habré has been forcefully dragged to the Dakar court where he is facing trial for massacres during his eight-year (1982-1990) iron fist rule of the Central African State.

The high profile trial, the first on the on the African continent commenced yesterday in a dramatic fashioned when the former dictator was escorted out of court after uttering contemptuous statements.

“Down with imperialists. [The trial] is a farce by rotten Senegalese politicians. African traitors. Valet of America.” Habré shouted before being rushed out of court as the trial proceeded without him.

Drama ensued yet again today as the former dictator and his defense team chose not to speak in court and the trial was adjourned until September.

The court has assigned new attorneys to the case and urged them uphold their professionalisms and actively and duly represent the defendant.

“You have the duty to defend Hissene Habre even against his will so a fair trial can take place,” the judge told the newly appointed legal team.

Meanwhile, the United States has commended “the Government of Senegal and the African Union for bringing former Chadian President Hissène Habré before the Extraordinary African Chambers of Senegal”

The US says Habré’s trial “is an important step toward justice for the victims of atrocities committed under Habré’s rule from 1982 to 1990, and should serve as yet another warning that, no matter their position, perpetrators of atrocities will be held accountable.”

Habré is accused of torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity but he denies all charges.

Human Rights organisations estimates 40,000 people were murdered under Habré’s regime. His victims and their relatives have pursued justice for more than two decades.

He has been dubbed Africa’s Pinochet after the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

There’s no African country that has ever conducted trial of a former leader of another African state. In trying the former Chadian ruler, Senegal is setting a precedent that might in the future provide an alternative to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

African leaders have long chided the court for bias against Africans and have threatened to quit the court en mass.

Just recently South Africa couldn’t not arrest wanted Sudan’s leader Omar al Bashir despite ICC calls for his capture.