How Hard Can It Be to Bring a Former African Dictator to Justice?

An African Union-backed attempt to try former Chadian President Hissène Habré on charges of crimes against humanity had a rocky start after Habré and his lawyers refused to participate in the proceedings. Habré, who came to power in 1982 and ruled with U.S. and French support, is accused of killing and torturing thousands of people during his eight years as Chad’s president. Dubbed the “event of the year in the field of international criminal law,” it’s the first time a case based on the principle of universal jurisdiction is being brought to trial in Africa, the culmination of two decades of campaigning by Habré’s victims and human-rights groups to bring him to justice.

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