Arusha, September 25, 2014 (FH) – Three US Senators from the Democratic Party have written to Senegalese President Macky Sall expressing support for his country’s efforts to bring former Chadian leader Hissène Habré to trial for crimes committed in his country.

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Habré is being prosecuted by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) set up within the Senegalese justice system under an agreement between the African Union and Dakar. The EAC’s mandate is to bring to justice those most responsible for “international” crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity) committed in Chad from 1982 to 1990.

The letter, dated September 19, says a fair and transparent trial for Habré would be a major step in efforts to punish those responsible for serious abuses and would “consolidate Senegal’s reputation” as a leader in the international protection of human rights.

The US has contributed one million dollars of funding for the EAC.

During a visit to Dakar in June 2013, President Barack Obama hailed the efforts of his Senegalese counterpart to put Habré on trial.

American Senators Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin and Benjamin Cardin also hailed the expressed commitment of the Senagalese government, in conformity with the Statute of the EAC, to make the trial accessible to the Chadian people. They said this would also demonstrate to a wider public that an African court can organize a fair trial for persons accused of heinous crimes perpetrated against African victims.

Habré, who has been in exile in Senegal since December 1990, was arrested at his Dakar home on June 30, 2013 and charged two days later with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed in Chad under his regime.

Since it launched its activities in February 2013, the EAC has conducted four rogatory missions to Chad. These however took place without Habré’s lawyers who contest the legality of the court and are boycotting it. They claim, for example, that the person who signed the EAC agreement for Senegal was not legally competent to do so.