Continued from page 1

“It’s not necessarily a slam dunk, even with documents,” Heindel said. “When a long time has passed, many of the victims or witnesses may have died. Their memories may be weak, and they can certainly be challenged by the fact that their memories may have become faulty.”

Habre’s defense team has derided the case as political, emphasizing the fact that Chad’s current government — headed by Idriss Deby, the same man who ousted Habre in 1990 — is the court’s biggest donor. This line was echoed by several Habre supporters, including 25-year-old nephew Mohammed Ali Tidiane, who lived with Habre in Dakar.

“I think these are the false allegations of President Deby,” Tidiane said. “Deby is afraid of Habre. He knows that it’s Habre who liberated Chad from the arms of Gadhafi.”

But Mbacke Fall, the case’s lead prosecutor, said the evidence showed Habre was “primarily responsible” for crimes committed by his security apparatus, citing his role in overseeing its work down to the smallest detail.

If neighbors’ memories are any guide, Habre retained this fastidiousness even in Senegal, though it showed through in curious ways. One former neighbor recalled a dispute that began when he was caught depositing trash in Habre’s garbage cans. One day, the neighbor returned home to find a long-winded letter written “in cold, formal French” by Habre’s wife, urging him to get his own garbage can. The neighbor, who insisted on anonymity because he works in a high-profile job and is not allowed to comment publicly, complied.

He considered the matter settled until the following year, when he returned home to find the new garbage can had been moved to where he parked his car. His guards told him this had been Habre’s doing. The former dictator, who was technically under house arrest but moved freely between homes every two days, had instructed his guards to have the garbage can moved out of view. He couldn’t bear to look at it.