Updated Questions and Answers on Trial of Ex-Chad Dictator
Human Rights Watch on May 3, 2016, issued an updated question-and-answer document about the trial in Senegal of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré. A verdict is scheduled for May 30, based on an announcement by the court at the end of the trial on February 11.
“The trial of Hissène Habré shows that it is possible for victims, with tenacity and perseverance, to bring a dictator to court,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the survivors since 1999.
Habré faces charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013, to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. The president of the Trial Chamber is Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso.
Habré’s trial, which began on July 20, 2015, was the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes. It was also the first universal jurisdiction case to proceed to trial in Africa. Universal jurisdiction is a legal basis in international law that allows national courts to prosecute the most serious crimes even when committed abroad, by a foreigner and against foreign victims.
Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his rule, from 1982 to 1990, when he was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, and fled to Senegal. After a 22-year campaign by his victims, the chambers indicted Habré in July 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges of the Extraordinary African Chambers found that there was sufficient evidence for Habré to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes.