(Dakar, February 3, 2016) – Closing arguments in the trial in Senegal of the former Chadian dictator, Hissène Habré, will take place from February 8 to 12, 2016.

Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990 before fleeing to Senegal, has been on trial since July 20, 2015 before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system facing charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes.

Hissène Habré at his trial in Dakar,  November 2015 
© 2015 Radiodiffusion Télévision Sénégalaise

Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political killings as well as systematic torture during his rule. The trial is the first in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes. Witness hearings ended in December, 2015 after 52 days.

“The Hissène Habré trial was the result of 25 years of relentless determination by the victims, and it was a watershed in the fight for accountability for the worst crimes,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the survivors since 1999. “During the trial courageous survivors finally had their opportunity to provide powerful testimony about torture, rape, sexual slavery, mass executions, and entire villages destroyed.”

Habré was in court every day, but refused to participate in the trial and did not answer any questions posed to him by the judges. The court appointed legal counsel to represent his interests.

Over 4,500 victims have registered as civil parties. Lawyers for the civil party victims will present their closing arguments on February 8 and 9. The chief prosecutor will speak on February 10. The court-appointed lawyers representing Habré’s interests take their turn on February 9 and possibly February 10.

A verdict is expected by the end of May.

A Human Rights Watch team will be in Dakar together with leaders of the victims’ campaign.

If Habré is found guilty, he will be entitled to appeal, as may the prosecutor against any acquittal on charges. In the event of a guilty verdict there will be a second set of hearings on damages for the civil parties and other victims.