Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 10:12 UK

Senegal 'ready' for Habre trial

Chad's former President Hissene Habre (File photo: 1990)
Hissene Habre's regime is accused of widespread atrocities

Senegal says it has moved a step closer to trying Chad's former leader Hissene Habre, appointing judges and passing an empowering bill.

Mr Habre has been living in exile in Senegal's capital under nominal house arrest since fleeing Chad in 1990.

Sometimes dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", he is accused of human rights abuses during his eight years in power.

Senegal has also appealed for financial help from international donors to conduct the trial.

The measures approved on Wednesday allow a 2007 law permitting the prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture to be applied to events in the past.

"We have witnessed a joint session of the parliament which gave us the legal basis to try President Habre," said Justice Minister Madicke Niang.

Mr Niang said Senegal needed 18bn CFA francs ($43m) to proceed with the trial.

"Donors have not given us anything yet," he said.

Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch said that Senegal now had "one of the world's strongest laws for prosecuting atrocities".

The group welcomed the new measures, though it noted that it was two years since the African Union asked for Mr Habre to be tried, and more than eight years since he had first been indicted in Senegal.

Mr Habre was deposed in an uprising led by current President Idriss Deby, and denies knowledge of the alleged murder and torture of political opponents.

A commission of inquiry said his government was responsible for some 40,000 politically motivated murders and 200,000 cases of torture.

There have been a number of international efforts to bring him to justice, but Senegal has always refused to accept any extradition requests.

Profile: Chad's Hissene Habre
03 Jul 06 |  Africa
Chad euphoric at Habre's arrest
17 Nov 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Chad
25 Jun 08 |  Country profiles
Scramble for influence in Africa?
26 Jul 07 |  Have Your Say

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