Habre absent as war crimes trial resumes in Senegal

GavelChad’s former dictator Hissene Habre refused to attend his trial in Senegal for war crimes and other atrocities, as proceedings resumed Monday after a break of more than a month.

“The accused will not come to the courtroom,” prosecutor Mbacke Fall announced as the hearing got underway, asking the court to send for the former president.

The hearing was quickly suspended by Gberdao Gustave Kam, the Burkinabe president of the Extraordinary African Chambers, to force Habre, who was in the building, to enter the dock.

Habre — backed by France and the United States as a bulwark against Libya’s then leader Moamer Kadhafi — is on trial over actions under his regime from 1982 until he was ousted in 1990.

The 72-year-old is accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture during his blood-soaked reign.

Some 40,000 Chadians were killed under a regime of brutal repression of opponents and rival ethnic groups Habre perceived as a threat to his grip on the Sahel nation, according to a Chadian commission of inquiry and human rights groups.

Habre refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the Dakar prosecution, the first time a despot from one African country has been called to account in another.

The court has appointed three attorneys to defend him after he refused legal representation. It adjourned in July to give the lawyers time to prepare the defence, but Habre wants nothing to do with them.

After he was overthrown, Habre fled to Senegal, where he was arrested in June 2013 and has since been in custody.

Delayed for years, the ongoing trial sets an historic precedent as African leaders accused of atrocities were previously tried in international courts.

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