Today, the trial of Chad’s former ruler Hissene Habre was suspended until September after the court named new lawyers because his defense team shunned the session.
The session was suspended after a few minutes when his lawyers did not show and the presiding judge appointed three lawyers to represent him. The new lawyers were given 45 days to prepare and the trial is due to resume on September 7.
The first day of the trial had been suspended after Habre started shouting slogans against the court and had to be forcibly removed.
Habre, who has refused to recognize the Extraordinary African Chambers trying him in Senegal, had to be forced to appear at the second day of the trial.
William Bourdon, a lawyer for the victims, said Habre’s refusal to cooperate with the court meant he had effectively taken the proceeding hostages. “He is spitting on the Extraordinary African Chambers,” Bourdon said.
Habre, who faces charges of war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, could face a maximum of life in prison.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, an internationally backed court, was set up by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad during Habré’s eight-year rule.
After a 19-month investigation, a four-judge panel revealed that there was sufficient evidence that serious breaches of international law were committed during Habré’s presidency, which lasted from 1982 to 1990.
According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000. The government periodically targeted various ethnic groups such as the Hadjerai and the Zaghawa, killing and arresting group members en masse when it was perceived that their leaders posed a threat to Habré’s rule.