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Former Chad President Hissene Habre detained, may face war crimes charges

Senegal police seized Hissene Habre, dubbed 'Africa's Pinochet,' on Sunday.

hissene habre chad houseEnlarge
A car passes in front of former Chadian president Hissene Habre's residence in Dakar, Senegal, on June 30, 2013. Senegalese authorities detained Habre on Sunday, the first step towards a trial on charges of crimes against humanity that is seen by many as a milestone for African justice. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Chad President Hissene Habre was detained in Senegal yesterday and could face crimes against humanity charges in a special criminal court established in Senegal in February.

The man once dubbed "Africa's Pinochet" also stands accused of war crimes and torture during his eight years in power in Chad, where rights groups say that some 40,000 people were killed under his rule.

Delayed for years by Senegal where he has lived since being ousted in 1990, Habre's trial will set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.

Two of his lawyers, Ibrahima Diawara and Francois Serres, complained that Habre had been "taken by force from his home even though no summons or search or arrest warrant from a judge had been issued to him.”

Habre seized power in 1982 and ruled Chad until 1990, when Chad’s current president, Idriss Deby Itno, ousted him.

Judges will decide on Tuesday whether to formally charge Habre, prosecutor Mbacke Fall said Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Fall said the court's investigation had found evidence that Habre’s political police force, the Directorate of Documentation and Security, had tortured citizens. "This oppressive mechanism had a mission to secure the country against espionage and exterior attacks. But it was completely transformed into an element of terror," he said.

"This is a trial that we have supported, and we welcome Senegal's leadership in undertaking this effort to see that justice is done, and in fact we have committed resources in support of their efforts," US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told Agence France-Presse.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal stops extradition of former Chad dictator Hissene Habre

--Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/senegal/130701/former-chad-president-hissene-habre-detained-may-face-wa