Former Chadian president Hissene Habre was buried Thursday in Senegal’s capital Dakar, AFP journalists saw, where he had been serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.
The former leader was jailed in Dakar in 2016 after an African Union-backed trial over abuses committed during years of iron-fisted rule in Chad.
On Tuesday, he succumbed aged 79 to Covid-19 in a private clinic in West African city.
About two hundred relatives, supporters and Senegalese dignitaries prayed before his body before an uncompleted Dakar mosque on Thursday as part of a simple ceremony.
There were no women present, according to tradition. Habre’s body, which was shrouded in cloth, was then buried at a nearby cemetery.
The ex-dictator’s son Hamid Hissene Habre described his father as “loving” and called his conviction an “injustice”.
“His commitment to a free, dignified, united and proud Africa was deeply rooted in him and our duty today is to rehabilitate him and do him justice,” he said.
Habre seized power in Chad in 1982, ruling until he fled to Senegal in 1990 after being overthrown.
His rule was marked by brutal crackdowns on dissent, including alleged torture and executions of opponents. Some 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed, earning Habre the nickname of “Africa’s Pinochet.”
In exile, the former leader lived quietly in an upmarket Dakar neighbourhood, but he was eventually arrested in 2013 and tried by a special tribunal set up by the African Union (AU) under a deal with Senegal.
The court handed a life term to Habre in May 2016 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. The sentence was upheld the following year.
Chad’s government said on Tuesday that it would allow Habre’s body to be repatriated but stressed that it would hold no official commemoration out of respect for his victims.
However, one of Habre’s wives later stated that her husband would be buried in Senegal, where his body would remain there until his reputation is rehabilitated in Chad.
Cire Cledor Ly, one of Habre’s Senegalese lawyers who was present at the funeral, said that his former client had been the victim of the “greatest judicial fraud that humanity has ever seen”.
“History will restore him to his rightful place,” he said.