Younous Mahadjir, 62, is now vice-president of the Chad Federation of Trade Unions (UST). He was speaking on Thursday at a conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“One day in 1990 I was arrested and taken to the premises of the DDS (Directorate of Documentation and Security, Habré’s political police),” he told the conference. “I was tortured and bound, I could not eat with my hands, so I had to do it directly with my mouth like an animal.”
Former president Habré is currently detained by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. The EAC is a special tribunal set up within the Senegalese justice system to try those most responsible for serious violations of international law committed in Chad under Habré’s regime (1992-1990).
Mahadjir was speaking at a conference on transitional justice organized by Fondation Hirondelle (Swiss NGO) and the universities of Addis Ababa, Oxford, Harvard and Leipzig, with support from the Swiss Embassy in Ethiopia.
These institutions announced during the conference a partnership to launch a new global platform on transitional justice, JusticeInfo.Net, at the beginning of next year.
The Chadian survivor said that in the cells of the DDS, victims received electric shocks to their genitals in the case of men and breasts in the case of women, to get them to make confessions.
“I met prisoners who were at the end of their tether. (…) I did not see a single nurse in 4 months,” said Mahadjir, who has filed a complaint as a civil party in the Habré case. He claimed DDS officials deliberately starved the prisoners or fed them with “rotten rice”.
“I lost 45 kilos during my detention. (…) Every day corpses were removed from the cells.” Calling for justice to be done, he said the main thing that victims want is to see Habré tried, and that the question of compensation would follow.
Nor did he spare Habré’s successor, current president Idriss Déby, whom he accused of not keeping his promises of “liberty and democracy”.
With regard to the trial in Chad of 26 suspects, including two sought by the EAC, he said this move by N’Djamena would be only a “farce of a trial to judge these torturers superficially and give them light prison sentences”.
For him, Habré’s suspected accomplices would certainly make revelations implicating Déby if they were tried in Dakar. Finally, he urged that the current Chadian Head of State be heard in the trial of his predecessor.