Before proceedings began, Habre, dressed in white with a turban, sat quietly until some of his supporters erupted with shouts in French saying “long live Chad and long live President Habre.”
Others who identified themselves as victims of Habre’s rule were also present, including Fatime Toumle, who called the trial historic.
“The start of this trial is a day of joy and satisfaction,” she said. “Everyone should be against impunity.”
African leaders are looking at this trial as what can be. Africans taking care of Africans, instead of the ICC which has lost favor in Africa and is very unpopular in all African capitals.
The court, established under an agreement with the African Union, is due to hear from 100 witnesses during the trial that is expected to last several months.
Rights groups and a Chad truth commission accuse Habre of being responsible for more than 40,000 political killings, systematic tortures and other violations during his time as president. Judges found sufficient evidence for Habre to be charged after a 19-month investigation.
Senegalese League for the Defense of Human Rights President Assane Dioma Ndiaye says the trial must be transparent.
“The world has its eyes in Senegal and the whole Africa has to legitimize the fact that they can judge their own citizens,” Ndiaye said. “So if we cannot have a just and equitable trial, all that will be put in question.”
Habre, once dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet,” led the country from 1982 to 1990, when he fled to Senegal after being deposed by current leader Idriss Deby.
The United States on Monday welcomed the start of the trial. “This trial is an important step toward justice for the victims of atrocities committed under Habre’s rule from 1982 to 1990,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Many Africans see United States which has refused itself to sign the ICC charter as the main abuser of the courts powers to intimidate African leaders and their opinions, in African statehouses is unwelcome.
Human Rights Watch called the trial a “milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes in Africa and the world.” The New York-based rights group also said the case marks the first time a court in one country is prosecuting the former ruler of another country for alleged human rights violations.
The ICC has faced criticism for solely pursuing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Africans, and securing only two convictions since it began operating in 2002.
AFRICAN UNION chairperson president Robert Mugabe, is leading the charge for member states to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Calls for African countries to pull out of ICC have been growing louder, with the African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe adding his voice on the issue.
Hopefully a fair outcome in Senegal will lead to the demise of ICC once for all