DAKAR (AFP) — Fourteen people filed a complaint against Hissene Habre in Senegal, which has been authorised -- but has yet to start -- to try the former Chadian dictator for war crimes, their lawyers said Tuesday.
"The deposit of this complaint marks a new stage in long-term efforts to bring Chad's former dictator to justice so that he responds to the atrocities committed during his presidency," Jacqueline Moudeina, head of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, said at a press conference.
The complaint filed Monday by 14 Senegalese and Chadians, who all claim to be victims of Habre's regime, was "solidly grounded," she said, and based on specific tortures enacted by Chad's feared DDS political police.
It is the first against Habre here since the African Union gave Senegal the green light to prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, said Alioune Tine, head of the African human rights watchdog Raddho.
Two years after that authorisation, Dakar claims it needs 27 million euros (38 million dollars) to begin the procedure -- a sum international donors claim is excessive.
Habre was toppled from power in 1990 and eventually fled to Senegal after an eight-year reign during which thousands of Chadians were allegedly tortured.
An official truth commission report in 1992 accused Habre's regime of committing some 40,000 political murders.
One of the Dakar plaintiffs, 50-year-old Clement Abaifouta, described serving as grave digger in a Ndjamena jail between 1985 and 1989, burying bodies of his fellow inmates.
"I wonder if our jailers were human. They thought we were state enemies," Abaifouta told reporters, claiming he had been arrested and jailed as a student on bogus charges of participating in a rebellion.
In August, Chad suddenly announced that Habre had been sentenced to death in absentia, but stressed this court case was not related to charges of crimes against humanity the former strongman faces in Senegal.
In the separate case in Chad, Habre was sentenced for "his financial, material and moral support to the rebels" currently at odds with the Chadian government.
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