June 4, 2007 / 10:24 AM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX-Facts on African dictators' legal cases

(Reuters) - Charles Taylor, 59, former president of Liberia and one of Africa’s most feared warlords, boycotted his first appearance at the opening of his trial in The Hague for war crimes in Sierra Leone on Monday.

Few former African dictators have faced charges, with many enjoying comfortable lives in exile. Here are some facts on those who have faced or may face legal proceedings:

* JEAN-BEDEL BOKASSA - Self-proclaimed emperor of the Central African Republic, ruled for 14 years until ousted in French-backed coup in 1979. Sentenced to death in 1987 for murder and embezzlement after a trial coloured by accusations of infanticide and cannibalism. His sentence was commuted and he was freed in 1993. He died in 1996.

* CHARLES TAYLOR - Taylor, former Liberian president, became the first African leader to stand before an international court after Nigeria, under U.S. pressure, handed him over to face trial for war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

The former warlord went into exile in Nigeria under a 2003 deal to end Liberia’s 14-year civil war.

The U.N.-backed court, dealing only with Sierra Leone, has charged Taylor with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for stoking civil war there through an illicit trade in guns for diamonds mined by rebels. He was moved to The Hague in 2006 due to fears a trial in Freetown could spur unrest in Sierra Leone or Liberia.

* MENGISTU HAILE MARIAM - Mengistu and other members of a notoriously brutal military junta were accused of killing thousands of people in the so-called Red Terror purges in Ethiopia, including ex-Emperor Haile Selassie whom he dethroned in 1974.

Mengistu, who fled Ethiopia to Zimbabwe in 1991 after guerrilla forces led by now Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ousted his Marxist regime, was tried in absentia. Mengistu was found guilty in December 2006, after a 12-year trial, of killing thousands during his 17-year reign and he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

* HISSENE HABRE - Senegal took a major step towards trying Chad’s former president Hissene Habre in February by adopting laws covering crimes committed outside the country.

Habre has lived in exile in Senegal since his overthrow in 1990 by current Chad President Idriss Deby. Two years later, a Chadian government inquiry accused Habre’s government of 40,000 political killings and 200,000 cases of torture.

Belgian authorities spent four years preparing a case against Habre although Senegal refused to extradite him to Belgium in 2005.

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