President Macky Sall of Senegal has proven again that his government takes no nonsense with the recent arrest of former Chadian leader Hissene Habre who for 22 years has successfully abscond trial for alleged crimes against humanity committed during his reign.
With Senegal highly praised and esteemed by the international community, especially the United States as Africa’s model for democracy, it was obvious President Sall was going to impress his august guest, President Obama by going for the “pull shot” towards an “untouchable”.
After countless calls from rights groups and victims in Chad for Habre to be brought to justice, the curtains finally fell on Sunday, when he was whiskered from his residence in Dakar where he has been on exile by police.
Although the motive behind the arrest remained sketchy and as Habre’s whereabouts is kept secret, the families of victims maltreated or brutally executed during his rule from 1982 to 1990 would be demanding for quick justice.
Whether Habre who has been under house arrest since 2005 would be tried in Senegal or transfer to the International Criminal Court, ICC at The Hague or even surprisingly handed back to the Chadian authorities, at least he should be thankful to Senegal for having taken off the pressure from him for two decades.
However, after Macky Sall was elected in April 2012, Senegal and the African Union, AU agreed to create an Extraordinary African Chambers to conduct the trail with the Senegalese judicial system.
The Chambers under the laws on which it was create has the power to prosecute “the person or persons most likely responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad between 7 June 1982 to 1 December 1990.
If the trial finally takes place in Senegal, this could mark a turning point for justice in Africa as the government of President Obama hinted during his stopover in Senegal to provide assistance for his trial.
Where Habre’s headache started
Habre, 70, is accused of allegedly killing thousands as well as systematic torturing thousands during his time in power, before he was deposed by current President Idriss Deby in his second coup attempts to oust him from power.
He first escaped to neighbouring Cameroon before moving on to Senegal, where he has been on exile as his victims continued to wage a 22-year campaign with the help of the international community to bring him to book.
Although a Senegalese judged indicted him in 2000, attempts to take him to court were delayed almost indefinitely by former President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, whose son, Karim Wade is also awaiting trial after being arrested for corruption and possession of unaccountable wealth.
Habre’s one-party system of government was marked or marred by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities, including waves of ethnic cleansing as the US rights group, Human Right Watch estimated that 1,208 people were killed or died under shocking conditions in detention with 12,321 victims of human right violation.
According to reports from a local Chadian commission of inquiry, as many as 400,000 were killed, with a further 200,000 subjected to torture.
Although the exact figures of the political killing or physical molesting of his victims are yet to verify and confirm, Habre who has earlier been sentenced to death in absentia in Chad, would obvious spend his rest of his life in jail or risk facing a death sentence in extreme cases.