Habré, who held power between 1982 and 1990, is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. It is the first time that a despot from one African country has been called to account by another.
Habré’s government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to a report published in May 1992 by a 10-member Chadian truth commission formed by Chad’s current President Idriss Deby.
The commission particularly blamed Habré’s political police force, the Directorate of Documentation and Security, saying it used torture methods including whipping, beating, burning and the extraction of fingernails.
The special prosecutor, Mbacke Fall, said “considering the evidence, it is necessary to retain the guilt of Hissene Habré for crimes of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the plea.
Defense lawyers have dismissed the tribunal as a political tool of Habré’s enemies, emphasizing that the government of Deby, who removed Habré from office, is the court’s largest donor.