DAKAR — Representatives from the African Union and Senegal have proposed the formation of a special court in Senegal to try ex-Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, accused of war crimes.
After four days of talks in Dakar, a draft agreement was drawn up between the AU and Senegalese government on the "creation of extraordinary African chambers within the Senegalese court structure," said Amadou Baal, director of the justice minister's office.
The chambers will have four sections to handle instruction, investigations, trials, and appeals, and will consist of Senegalese and other African judges.
Baal said the proposal was still subject to final approval.
Senegal pledged Friday to put Habre on trial, after the Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled that it must submit his case to its competent authorities for prosecution if it does not extradite him.
Habre has spent more than 20 years living free in Senegal as courts and governments have tussled over who should try him for atrocities committed during his rule from 1982-1990.
His regime was marked by fierce repression and the targeting of ethnic groups. A 1992 truth commission report said that he presided over up to 40,000 political murders and widespread torture.
While former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade stalled for years on the case, President Macky Sall, who was elected in April, has said he has "strong commitment" to see Senegal try Habre.
Human Rights Watch and other rights bodies said in a statement that the decision, if swiftly implemented, "could mark a turning point in the long campaign to bring (Habre) to justice."
Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with the victims for 13 years said "Senegal should begin proceedings quickly, before more survivors die."
The draft statute for the new court allows Senegalese prosecutors to go after "the most serious" of Habre's crimes, to ensure the trial is manageable and does not drag on for years.
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