An appeals court’s confirmation of the conviction for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture of Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, is a vindication of the decades-long campaign waged by his survivors, the ICJ and two human rights groups supporting the victims said today.
The appeals court also confirmed the life sentence handed down by the trial court and ordered Habré to pay over 82 billion CFA francs (approximately 123 million euros) to his victims.
“This is a crowning victory for Hissène Habré’s victims, who for 26 years never gave up fighting to bring him to justice” said the ICJ Commissioner Reed Brody, who has worked with the survivors since 1999.
“His life sentence is a wake-up call to tyrants everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims,” he added.
The appeals court also upheld the decision to order compensation to Habré’s victims and said that a trust fund created by the African Union (AU) should be tasked with searching for and recovering Habré’s assets.
A summary of the decision was read out in court by chief judge Ougadeye Wafi, a judge of the Supreme court of Mail, who shared the bench with two senior Senegalese judges.
Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, was not in court for the judgment. He did not recognize the chambers’ authority and sat silently throughout the trial.
His court-appointed lawyers filed the appeal on his behalf.
Hissène Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 after being deposed by the current Chadian president, Idriss Déby Itno. Although Habré was first arrested and indicted in Senegal in 2000, it took a long campaign by his victims before the Extraordinary African Chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the AU in February 2013 to prosecute crimes under international law committed in Chad during Habré’s rule.
“I have been fighting for this day since I walked out of prison more than 26 years ago,” said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “Today I finally feel free.”
Habré’s trial was the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights atrocities.
“At long last, after so many years of fighting, so many years of setbacks, we have achieved what we set out to do,” said Jacqueline Moudeina of Chad, the victims’ chief lawyer and president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (ATPDH).
The appeals court said that while it accepted the credibility of the witness Khadidja Hassan Zidane who stated that Habré personally raped her on four occasions, it could not convict Habré of personal having committed rape because the charge was not included in the individual indictment.
In the ruling upheld today, the trial court awarded each survivor of rape and sexual slavery 20 million CFA francs (approximately 30,489 Euros, US$32,702), each survivor of torture and arbitrary detention and each mistreated former prisoner of war 15 million CFA francs (22,867 Euros, US$24,526), and family members of victims 10 million CFA francs (15,244 Euros, US$16,350).
It said that 7,396 victims were eligible for reparations and that 3,489 others who had not produced sufficient proof could apply to the trust fund.
The court has already frozen some assets belonging to Habré including a house in an upscale Dakar neighborhood believed to be worth about 680,000 Euros as well as some small bank accounts. Habré is thought to have much more extensive assets.
“Money will never bring back my friends,” said Clément Abaïfouta, who as a prisoner was forced to bury other detainees in mass graves, and is now president of the AVRCHH. “But money is important to heal the wounds, to take victims out of poverty, and to show that we have rights that must be recognized.”
“With this verdict, we can now try to locate and seize Habré’s assets and make sure the victims are compensated,” said lawyer Moudeina.
Reed Brody, ICJ Commissioner, t: +221-76-618-79-10 (in Dakar) or +1-917-388-6745 ; e: reedbrody(a)gmail.com
The full text of the press release can be downloaded in English and in French below:
Tchad-Hissene Habre peine confirmee-News-Press Releases-2017-FRE (Français, PDF)NewsPress releases