DAKAR – Former Chad dictator Hissene Habre began his first full day in custody on Monday after his arrest in Senegal by investigators who plan to put him on trial for crimes against humanity.
The 70-year-old — once dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet” — also faces accusations of war crimes and torture during his eight years in power in Chad, where rights groups say some 40,000 people were killed under his rule.
He spent the night in a police cell in downtown Dakar after his arrest Sunday at the home he shares with his wife and children, a security source said.
Mbacke Fall, a prosecutor with a special court set up in February to try Habre, was expected to hold a news conference on the case later Monday.
“This is a watershed. For many years, the victims have tried to get their case heard before the Senegalese courts. Things are moving very fast now,” said Alioune Tine, chairman of the Senegalese Committee for Human Rights campaign group.
Delayed for years by Senegal, where he has lived since being ousted in 1990, Habre’s trial will set a historic precedent, as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.
Chadian President Idriss Deby went on national radio to welcome the arrest and praise the efforts of Senegalese leader Macky Sall in bringing the case to trial.
“Macky Sall just made history in Africa, an Africa of tomorrow, an Africa free of all evil, an Africa stripped of all dictatorships or any form of oppression,” Deby said.