Senegalese judge granted former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré two months in prison, where he is serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, the prison being used to detain new detainees in quarantine of coronavirus .
Habre, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during a trial supported by the African Union in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in 2016.
A Chadian commission of inquiry estimates that 40,000 people have been killed by his regime.
After being overthrown, Habré fled to Senegal and lived freely for more than 20 years in an upmarket suburb of Dakar with his wife and children.
Nicknamed “the Pinochet of Africa”, Habré was finally arrested in 2013 and tried by a special tribunal set up by the African Union under an agreement with Senegal.
His trial set a global precedent because it is the first time that a country has prosecuted the former head of another country for human rights abuses, and has been viewed as a historic example of the human rights abuses of Africans tried on the continent.
Since his conviction, the ex-leader in the late 1970s has been serving his sentence in a penal establishment in Cap Manuel, at the tip of the peninsula where Dakar is located.
His lawyer, Mamadou Diawara, had asked Habré for a 60-day leave because, because of his age, he was “particularly vulnerable” to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the judge’s order obtained Monday by AFP.
Judge Boubacar Ndiaye noted that the Cap Manuel prison was chosen by the Senegalese authorities to keep the new detainees in solitary confinement while they are in quarantine to avoid a possible spread of COVID-19 in prison.
He granted Habré a 60-day temporary leave to be served at his home in Ouakam, a district of Dakar, and ordered him to return to prison when he expired.
An association of victims of his regime said last week that “the health crisis should not be used as an excuse for the early release of Hissène Habré”.
Senegal has registered 226 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths.