After two decades of obstruction, the trial of Chad’s ex-President, Hissène Habré, for crimes against humanity got under way this week in Dakar. The Special Court, jointly set up by the government of Senegal and the African Union, offers another forum for the prosecution of leaders accused of atrocities. It comes as several AU leaders, including South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, criticise the International Criminal Court for ‘targeting Africa’.
In fact, setting up Special Courts
and working in parallel with African
justice systems is well within the
remit of the ICC, which was meant
to reinforce, not replace them.
Some argue that the ICC should
set up an adjunct or Special Court
in South Africa or another state
with a credible judiciary.
Without the matchless
determination of Chadian lawyer
Jacqueline Moudeina, herself
a victim of a grenade attack in
2001, the trial might never have
happened. Habré used his close
relations with Cold War leaders
such as Ronald Reagan and
François Mitterrand in the 1980s
to give him cover to obliterate his
guerrilla opponents and civilian
allies. It helped that some of them
were backed by Reagan’s arch
enemy Colonel Gadaffi.
Chad’s current President, Idris
Déby Itno, came to power by
overthrowing Habré with backing
from Sudan. But until he seized
power, Déby was Habré’s head of
military intelligence and a key part
of his security apparatus. Habré’s
defence team must be tempted to
call Déby as a witness, if only to