DAKAR Chad's former president Hissene Habre has been remanded in custody pending trial in Senegal on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture during his eight years in power, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Habre, 71, was arrested on Sunday in the Senegalese capital Dakar, where he has been living in exile for 22 years since he was overthrown in a 1990 coup in Chad.
"He is remanded in custody from today," Habre's lawyer, Francois Serres, told Reuters. "He has been formally charged."
Human rights groups accuse Habre of being responsible for the torture or killing up to 40,000 people during his 1982-1990 presidency of the poor, oil-rich central African state.
"This is a first victory for his victims," said Jacqueline Moudeina, a lawyer for the victims and head of the Chadian Association for the Defense and Protection of Civil Rights (ATPDH). "The charging of Hissene Habre is the culmination of 22 years of campaigning for justice to be done."
Reed Brody, legal advisor to Human Rights Watch, voiced hope that a fair trial for Habre would set a global precedent. It would be the first time a court in one country has tried the head of state of another for rights crimes.
Senegal, under pressure from the International Court of Justice and human rights groups, set up a special court this year to look into long-standing allegations of abuses by Habre's regime.
The court's prosecutor, Mbacke Fall, said on Monday it would pursue Habre on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of torture. The alleged crimes took place during Habre's rule, especially during a conflict with neighboring Libya, he said.
Habre will be detained in a Dakar prison which has not been made public yet. Human Rights Watch said he would be held in a special part of Dakar's main hospital for prisoners suffering from health problems.
(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Editing by Daniel Flynn)