Tutu, activists demand Habre trial

2010-07-21 20:04

Dakar – Desmond Tutu and fellow Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Thursday led hundreds of rights groups in urging Senegal to try exiled Chadian dictator Hissene Habre for mass murder and torture.

In a signed appeal to the government of Senegal and the AU, released by Human Rights Watch, prominent activists called for the long-delayed trial of Habre to begin, after 10 years in exile Dakar.

"We, the undersigned NGOs and individuals urge Senegal rapidly to begin legal proceedings against the exiled former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, who is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture from 1982 to 1990," said the petition, released ahead of an AU summit in Kampala next week.

The case, which has been dragging on since Habre was first indicted in Senegal in 2000, would set a historical precedent for Africa by becoming the first dictator to be tried on its soil.

According to HRW, Habre's "one-party regime was marked by widespread atrocities, including waves of ethnic campaigns."

"Files of Habre’s political police reveal the names of 1 208 people who were killed or died in detention. A total of 12 321 victims of human rights violations were mentioned in the files."

After the initial indictment, Senegal said it had no jurisdiction to try the case and he was later charged by Belgium with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture.

Senegal rejected a Belgian extradition request, and the AU tasked Senegal with putting Habre on trial, which has been delayed as Senegal haggles over the budget for the trial with international funders.

Other signatories of the petition include 117 African rights groups from 25 countries. South Africa's Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and head of the Gaza fact-finding commission, also signed.