Why in Senegal and What Likely Benefits for Senegal and for Africa?
When he was ousted from power in Ndjamena almost twenty years ago, former President Hissene Habre was granted asylum by the Senegalese authorities. Over time, and as a result of increasing pressure from the victims, their families and the international community, it was agreed—chiefly by the African Union and other international bodies and human rights organizations—that Habre should be tried and held accountable. Senegal was urged either to organize the trial in its territory or to extradite the former Chadian president.
As a result, the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special criminal court, opened on February 8, 2013 in the West African nation of Senegal to prepare a case against former Chadian president Hissène Habré. Habré has been accused of responsibility for the deaths of more than 40,000 people and the torture of more than 20,000 during his eight-year rule of Chad, from 1982 to 1990. Arrangements are currently being made for the trial to be held in Dakar amidst conflicting positions and opinions, some applauding to the measure, others harshly criticizing the move.
In relation to all this and in an attempt to clarify the issue with the African public, the Senegalese government commissioned a consulting firm, Premium Africa Consulting, to engage in a “clarification mission” to explain the need to set up a “African Special Court” (Chambres African Extraordinaires) and to explain its mode of operation.
The panel, which brought together eminent professionals from the Senegalese judiciary and the international justice community, was hosted by WARC. With the significant media presence (radio, press, television), it provided an opportunity as well for those defending the interests of the victims to put their cases to the public and to ask that injustice and impunity be fought and defeated African nations.
The event drew a crowd of 65 people including prominent lawyers, academics, representatives of human rights organizations, members of the diplomatic community, journalists, scholars, students and other members of the larger public. The proceedings of this public lecture were widely echoed in the Wednesday and Thursday issues of the various dailies based in the Senegalese capital Dakar.