[JURIST] Complaints filed with a Senegal prosecutor [JURIST report] last week by fourteen Chadian and Senegalese citizens alleging that former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] was responsible for war crimes and torture are merely "judicial persecution," lawyers for Habre said in a statement [text, in French] Tuesday. Habre counsel Francois Serres of France and El Hadj Diouf of Senegal called the latest action as "unacceptable" and "poorly founded" [Le Monde report, in French] as previous complaints against Habre, and argued that the complainants' central grievance is against Habre's political police force, Direction de la documentation et de la securite (DDS), rather than Habre himself. The case has not yet been opened, with concerns that trial costs may reach $40 million. AFP has more.
Habre fled Chad for Senegal after being overthrown in 1990, and has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. Last month a Chadian court sentenced him to death in absentia [JURIST report] for crimes committed against the state. The latest complaints filed against Habre are seen as an attempt to hasten Habre's Senegal trial. Senegal courts have long refused to extradite Habre, despite the issuance of an international arrest warrant [JURIST reports] by Belgium pursuant to its universal jurisdiction laws [HRW backgrounder]. Under growing international pressure to either try Habre locally or extradite him to Belgium, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade [official profile, in French; BBC profile] agreed in April 2006 to try him in Senegal and the Senegalese government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. Previously the Senegalese courts dismissed an action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that they lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere. In July this year Senegal formally adopted [JURIST report] a constitutional amendment giving the nation's courts jurisdiction over Habre's trial.