Hissene Habre, 73, Chad’s ex-ruler has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of crimes against humanity at a landmark trial in Senegal.
Habre was finally given a life sentence verdict, Monday, (May, 30), nearly a year after his trial began in July 2015. It took his victims and human-rights groups almost two decades to bring him to justice.
During his eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990, The Extraordinary African Chambers found the Directorate of Documentation and Security, the government agency in charge of suppressing the political opponents of Habre’s regime was found responsible for about 40,000 killings and 200,000 cases of torture, malnutrition, and disease in secret detention camps in the capital, N’Djamena, and other prisons.
Over ninety witnesses gave testimonies of rape, sexual slavery and killings against Habre.
The EAC commission was specially established by Senegal to investigate Habre’s alleged war crimes during his rule and was specially appointed by the African Union to judge Habre after he was deposed in 1990 by Chad’s current president, Idriss Déby.
Derby served as commander-in-chief of the army under Habre.
Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam, said evidence showed Habre was directly responsible, having given the orders for imprisonment and torture, and having also committed some of the crimes himself.
The Human Rights Campaign lawyer who initiated the case against Hissene Habre, Reed Brody, was delighted at the verdict.
He said in a statement:
This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasury, and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end.
Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.
In a landmark event in international criminal justice, this is the first time in Africa whereby the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human-rights abuses.
Habre came to power in 1982, in the midst of a brutal war between Chad and neighboring Libya over the Aouzou Strip, the northernmost part of Chad that Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi sought to control.
Habre’s forces, backed by the United States and France, eventually drove Libyan troops out. Habre fled to Senegal after being ousted by Derby, and had been living a plush life, marrying and having children.
Hissene Habré has fifteen days to appeal the verdict and his lawyer, Mounir Ballal, said he intends to appeal. Ballal said, “We are surprised by the verdict, especially the severity of the verdict.”
Although the US had supported Habre during his war with Libya, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has praised the conviction against him calling it “a landmark in the global fight against impunity for atrocities.”
Habre was first indicted by a Senegalese judge in 2000, but legal twists and turns over a decade saw the case go to Belgium and then finally back to Senegal after unwavering pursuit by the survivors. The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, cannot prosecute crimes committed before it was established in 2002.
In 2001, the archives of Habre’s police force were found in its headquarters in Chad. The records dated to Habre’s rule and mentioned more than 12,000 victims of Chad’s detention network. Many of the records bore his signature, prosecutors said. – bigstory
Source, BBC, TheAtlantic, Bigstory