Monday May 30, 2016
Habre, Chad's former dictator is sentenced to life
behind bars. This thing called justice - it may seem to
move too slowly in the eyes of victims, but eventually
A special court set up by the African
Union, the first of its kind, has sentenced Chad's
former dictator Hissene Habre to life behind bars after
he was found guilty of crimes against humanity, torture
and sexual slavery.
Al Jazeera had this
account on its online pages -
"The verdict on Monday caps
a 16-year battle by victims and rights campaigners to
bring the former leader to justice in Senegal, where he
fled after being toppled in a 1990 coup in the central
African nation. Human rights groups accuse the
72-year-old of being responsible for the deaths of
40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990."
Another international news outlet,
the BBC had this on
today's historic verdict.
"Throughout the trial, Habre
refused to recognise the court's legitimacy, frequently
disrupting proceedings. The ex-president denied
accusations that he ordered the killing of 40,000 people
during his rule from 1982 to 1990. His critics dubbed
him "Africa's Pinochet" because of the atrocities
committed during his rule.
Habre was arrested in
Senegal, where he was exiled, in 2013. Many of his
victims campaigned for him to be tried following his
overthrow in 1990. In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a
warrant for his arrest, claiming universal jurisdiction
but, after Senegal referred the issue to the African
Union, the AU asked Senegal to try Mr Habre "on behalf
In 2013, a court in Chad sentenced him to
death in absentia for crimes against humanity."
In another section dealing with the
profile of Hissene Habre, the BBC wrote -
"During Habre's time in
power, he faced a succession of rebellions but lobby
group Amnesty International has said this does not
excuse his government's human rights abuses.
"The Chadian government applied a deliberate policy of
terror in order to discourage opposition of any kind,"
Human rights groups say the DDS
security apparatus was under the tight
personal control of Habre.
An underground prison, known as the "Piscine" because it
was a converted swimming pool was one of the DDS's most
notorious detention centres in the capital, N'Djamena,
while Amnesty reports that some political prisoners were
held at the presidential palace.
Survivors said the most common forms of torture were
electric shocks, near-asphyxia, cigarette burns and
having gas squirted into their eyes.
Sometimes, the torturers would place the exhaust pipe of
a vehicle in their victim's mouth, then start the
engine, Amnesty says.
Some detainees were placed in a room with decomposing
bodies, other suspended by their hands or feet, others
bound hand and foot.
One man said he thought his brain was going to explode
when he was subjected to "supplice des baguettes"
(torture by sticks), when the victim's head is put
between sticks joined by rope which are then twisted.
Others were left to die from hunger from the "diete
noire" (starvation diet).
US-based rights group Human Rights Watch says that
members of any ethnic group seen as being opposed to
Habre were targeted:
The Sara in 1984, the Hadjerai in
1987 and Chadian Arabs and the Zaghawa in 1989-90.
Habre was eventually deposed by current President Idriss
Deby, an ethnic Zaghawa, who has been accused of
favouring members of his own community.
The US Secretary of State
John Kerry in a statement posted on his official website
said,he welcomed the
judgement of the AU-backed court. It is a statement that
clearly shows regret at the US government's support of
the Chadian dictator while he was in power. The US knew
what Habre was up to but ignored it as it saw the Habre
regime as a bulwark against the Ghaddafi regime, Chad's
"This ruling is a landmark in the
global fight against impunity for atrocities, including
war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Habre’s crimes were numerous,
calculated, and grave. Beginning in 1982, his eight-year
term as the president of Chad was marked by large-scale,
systematic violations, including those involving murder
of an estimated 40,000 people, widespread sexual
violence, mass imprisonment, enforced disappearance, and
Without the persistence of his
accusers and their demand for justice, Habre might never
have faced a court of law. I especially commend the
courage of the nearly 100 victims who testified, and I
hope the truths uncovered through a fair and impartial
trial will bring some measure of peace to his thousands
of victims and their families.
As a country committed to the respect
for human rights and the pursuit of justice, this is
also an opportunity for the United States to reflect on,
and learn from, our own connection with past events in
I strongly commend the Senegalese
Government, the Chadian Government, and the African
Union for creating the Extraordinary African Chambers
that allowed for a fair and balanced trial.
Let this be a message to other
perpetrators of mass atrocities, even those at the
highest levels and including former heads of state, that
such actions will not be tolerated and they will be
brought to justice."
CNN noted - "Amnesty
International also praised the verdict as "a victory for
those victims who fought tirelessly to ensure Hissene
Habre could not get away with crimes under international
"This landmark decision should also
provide impetus to the African Union or individual
African states to replicate such efforts to deliver
justice to victims in other countries in the continent,"
said Gaetan Mootoo, an Amnesty International West Africa
The trial against Habre opened in Senegal in July, and
69 victims, 23 witnesses and 10 expert witnesses
testified during the proceedings, Amnesty said, adding
that the case "sets a new benchmark for efforts to end
impunity in Africa."
Habre's attorneys refused to appear at
the opening of the trial because they considered the
court to be illegitimate. The court appointed three
Senegalese lawyers to defend him, and after a brief
adjournment, Habre was brought back in to court by force
to be tried."
The UK-based Daily Mail
(not the outlandish, short-lived caricature created by
the rabid praise singers of the rat) had this -
"Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre
has been sentenced to life in prison for war crimes,
crimes against humanity and a litany of other charges,
The verdict brings a long-awaited
reckoning to families of the up to 40,000 people killed
and the many kidnapped, raped or tortured under his
1982-1990 rule as president of Chad.
Habre's trial by the Extraordinary
African Chambers is the first in which the courts of one
country are prosecuting the former ruler of another for
alleged human rights crimes.
Victims groups who had travelled to
Dakar to hear the verdict were visibly moved by a
judgement that comes a quarter century after the abuses
'Hissene Habre, this court finds you
guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, forced slavery,
and kidnapping,' as well as war crimes, said Gberdao
Gustave Kam, Burkinabe president of the Extraordinary
African Chambers (CAE) court.
'The court condemns you to life in
prison,' Kam added, giving Habre 15 days to appeal the
Habre raised his arms into the air on hearing the
verdict, shouting 'Down with France-afrique!' referring
to the term used for France's continuing influence on
its former colonies.
'The feeling is one of complete
satisfaction,' said Clement Abeifouta, president of a
Habre survivors association. 'It's the crowning
achievement of a long and hard fight against impunity.
Today Africa has won. We say thank you to Senegal and to
Africa for judging Africa,' he added.
The case was heard by the CAE special tribunal set up by
the African Union under a deal with Senegal, and is the
first time a country has prosecuted a former leader of
another nation for rights abuses.
Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights
Watch who has spent the last 15 years working with
victims to bring Habre to justice, said the conviction
was a warning to other despots.
Habre's defence team unsuccessfully
sought to cast doubt on the prosecution argument that
their client was an all-knowing, all-powerful head of
the DDS, suggesting he may have been unaware of abuses
on the ground.
For more than 20 years, the former
dictator lived freely in an upmarket Dakar suburb with
his wife and children, swapping his military garb for
white robes and a cap. He declined to address the court
throughout the 10-month trial, refusing to recognise its
'What we have seen today is not justice. It is a crime
against Africa,' said Mahamat Togoi, part of a Habre
supporters group. 'It's the dirty work of mercenaries in
the pay of France-afrique.'
Amnesty International West Africa
researcher Gaetan Mootoo said the verdict would serve as
a guiding light for those living in repressive regimes
around the world. 'It is moments like these that other
victims around the world can draw on in darker times
when justice appears beyond reach. It will nourish them
with hope and give them strength to fight for what is
right,' Mootoo said in a statement.