DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habre was suspended on Tuesday until September to allow court-appointed lawyers to prepare his defense.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, established by Senegal and the African Union, is trying Habre for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, in an unprecedented case of one African country prosecuting the former ruler of another.
Habre on Tuesday refused representation. Attorney General Mbacke Fall said Habre must accept lawyers appointed by the judge.
The court appointed three Senegalese lawyers to represent Habre and they were given until Sept. 7 to prepare the defense.
"The appointed lawyers have a duty to defend Habre. Even if the accused refuses to collaborate with the appointed lawyers for him, the procedure will continue," said Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam.
Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch and who has been working with Habre's victims since 1999, said they are disappointed, "but they have been fighting to bring this case to court for 25 years, and 45 more days will not change anything in their long march toward justice."
Habre dismisses the tribunal as politically motivated. On Monday, Habre was taken away from court by security guards after he and a supporter yelled out. He then refused to return.
Habre's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to a report published in May 1992 by a 10-member truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission singled out Habre's political police force for using torture.
In 1990 Habre was overthrown and fled to Senegal, where he was eventually charged in 2013.
Habre risks 30 years in jail if found guilty by the court, set up to try the ex-leader for the crimes during his rule from 1982-1990.
Associated Press writer Carley Petesch contributed to this report from Dakar.