Arusha, March 25, 2015 (FH) – A court in Chad on Wednesday sentenced seven former members of Hissène Habré’s security services to life in jail for murder and torture. Ex-president Habré is detained in Dakar, Senegal, where he is also awaiting trial.

1 min 57Approximate reading time

Victims and human rights organizations hailed Wednesday’s judgment as a victory for justice, 24 years after Habré fell from power.

The court sentenced three of the 28 accused to 20 years in jail. It acquitted four people and gave the rest sentences ranging from seven to fifteen years.

The seven people sentenced to life include Saleh Younous, former head of the Directorate of Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), Habré’s political police, and Mahamat Djibrine, who has been described as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad”.

The two men were also wanted by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) based in Dakar, but the Chadian authorities refused to transfer them there.

Five of the accused were tried in absentia, two of who were sentenced to life.

The judgment also provides that the 7,000 victims who were civil parties in the case obtain up to 75 billion CFA francs (about125 million dollars or 114 million euros) in reparations. Half this sum is to come from the sale of assets of the convicted persons, and the rest from the Chadian State which was declared civilly responsible.

The special criminal court in N’Djamena also ordered that the government erect a monument in memory of the victims of Habré’s regime, and that the former headquarters of the DDS be transformed into a museum.

The trial opened on November 14, 2014. These former top officials were charged with murder, torture, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, and assault and battery.

“Twenty-four years after the end of the Habré dictatorship, and fourteen years after the survivors filed their complaints, today’s convictions and the order of reparations are a stunning victory for Hissène Habré’s victims,” said Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch.

“The sentencing of state officials for human rights crimes is not only a testament to the courage and tenacity of the victims, it is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has been the norm,” he added.

Victims also expressed satisfaction. “At long last, the men who tortured us and mocked us for decades have got what they deserve,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of Hissène Habré Crimes (Association des victimes des crimes du régime de Hissène Habré , AVCRHH). When he was in Habré’s jails, Abaifouta was forced to dig graves and bury co-prisoners.

“The government must now implement this decision so that victims finally get reparation for their suffering and measures taken so that we are not forgotten,” said Abaifouta.

This trial ended in N’Djamena as investigating magistrates in Dakar recently found there was enough evidence to commit Hissène Habré to trial.

The former Chadian president, who has been living in exile in Senegal since 1990, was arrested at his Dakar home on June 30, 2013 and charged two days later with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture.