Senegal must start Habre
by Reuters South Africa
Human rights advocates called on Senegal on Monday to press ahead with preparations to try ex-Chadian President Hissene Habre on torture charges, despite a three month delay to a visit by EU judicial experts.
The EU team was due to discuss technical and financial assistance for Senegal for the trial, which will be the first time one developing nation has tried someone for rights crimes committed in another.
Its week-long trip has been postponed to January from October due to scheduling issues, officials said, in the latest setback to the long-delayed case.
Habre, who has lived in the West African country since being overthrown in 1990, is accused of systematic human rights abuses including the killing and torture of thousands of people during his nine-year rule in landlocked Chad.
"It's obviously very disappointing to be losing another three months here," said Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch. "But the ball is still in Senegal's court. They should press ahead with the start of investigations."
Brody urged Senegalese officials to name an investigating judge and to make contact with the Belgian court which had already compiled a dossier on Habre before its extradition request for him was rejected by the African Union in 2006.
An AU heads of state summit in Banjul last year mandated Senegal to organise the trial. A year after that decision, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade appealed in July to European countries for financial and technical aid. Senegal, which has no experience of human rights trials, has drafted a budget for the trial of 18.6 billion CFA francs ($41 million), which the European experts are expected to scrutinise closely.