Verdict due in war crimes trial of Chad ex-dictator

May 30, 2016 6:45 am
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Mobutu Sese Seko, then president of Zaire (l), and Hissene Habré, then president of Chad, wave to wellwishers, 20 August 1983, in N'djamena/AFP
Mobutu Sese Seko, then president of Zaire (l), and Hissene Habré, then president of Chad, wave to wellwishers, 20 August 1983, in N’djamena/AFP

, DAKAR, Senegal, May 30 – A special court in Senegal was due to deliver its verdict Monday in the war crimes trial of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, bringing a long-awaited reckoning to victims and their families.

Habre, 73, was president of Chad from 1982-1990, during which time he is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity and torture.

Overview
  • Habre, 73, was president of Chad from 1982-1990, during which time he is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity and torture.
  • Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
  • Habre went on trial last July in the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE), a special tribunal set up in Dakar by the African Union under a deal with Senegal, the first time a country has prosecuted a former leader of another nation for rights abuses.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.

Habre went on trial last July in the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE), a special tribunal set up in Dakar by the African Union under a deal with Senegal, 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 landmark case could encourage others to bring similar action.

“The trial of Hissene Habre shows that it is possible for victims, with tenacity and perseverance, to bring their dictator to court,” Reed told AFP on Sunday. “We hope that other survivors, other activists will be inspired by what Habre’s victims have been able to do.”

Often dressed in combat fatigues in line with his “desert fighter” nickname, Habre fled to Senegal after his 1990 ouster by Chad’s current President Idriss Deby.

Habre has declined to address the court, refusing to recognise its authority. Neither he nor his legal team will be in court for Monday’s hearing, they told AFP.

But his court-appointed lawyers will attend and are hoping for an acquittal. “We have developed our arguments sufficiently well to prove that Hissene Habre is innocent,” said Senegalese lawyer Mbeye Sene.

“If the law is correctly applied, we will go straight to an acquittal for Mr Habre,” added Sene.

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