Habré’s Life Sentence Upheld on Appeal

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Today, the Appeals Court of the Extraordinary African Chambers upheld the life sentence for Chad’s former President Hissène Habré. Chad’s former President had been convicted of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and sentenced to life in prison on May 30, 2016.

Habré was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990. According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000.

Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The Extraordinary African Chambers, based in Dakar, Senegal, were created by the African Union and Senegal following a complaint filed by Hissène Habré to the Court of the Economic Community of West African States on the principle of non-retroactivity of the Senegalese new criminal provisions adopted in 2007-2008. The Chambers, especially dedicated to the trial of Hissène Habré, are composed of African judges and apply international criminal law, following Senegalese criminal procedure.

Hissène Habré Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

On Monday the 30th of May 2016, the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established especially for the prosecution of Hissène Habré, found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Habré was the President of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until 1990 when he fled to Senegal after being overthrown by the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The United States and France supported Habré as they saw in him an important ally against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.

According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000.

Media report that Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The case against Habré has from the beginning been pushed forward by Habré’s victims. Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims for many years said following the judgment: “Today will be carved into justice as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for Habré’s arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal refused to extradite Habré to Belgium. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or to extradite him.

In March 2015, a special criminal court in Chad convicted accomplices of Habré for crimes of torture and murder.

Habré has been given 15 days to appeal. The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

For Hissène Habré, a Trial by Refusal

by Thierry Cruvellier*

DAKAR, Senegal — Surrounded by 10 muscular prison guards, Hissène Habré, his frail body entirely swathed in white, looked smothered in his chair. He was sitting in the front row of the immense courtroom, fingering Muslim prayer beads. His boubou covered all but his eyes, and they were partly hidden by his glasses.

Mr. Habré, the 72-year-old former president of Chad, is accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture regarding the deaths of an alleged 40,000 people during his rule between 1982 and 1990. July 20 was the first day of his trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court he has repeatedly denounced as “illegitimate and illegal.” And almost as soon as it started, it stopped: Mr. Habré, and his lawyers, refused to participate, and on the next day the proceedings were suspended.

The Habré trial is the event of the year in the field of international criminal law. With tensions growing between the African Union and the International Criminal Court — which African states accuse of being biased against them because it prosecutes mostly crimes committed in Africa — the E.A.C. was being touted, at least by Senegal’s justice minister, as the advent of an “Africa that judges Africa.”

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But on the first day of what may be the court’s only trial, Mr. Habré derided the E.A.C., or C.A.E. in French, as the “Comité administratif extraordinaire,” the Extraordinary Administrative Committee. He called the judges — two from Senegal, one from Burkina Faso — “simple functionaries tasked with carrying out a political mission.” As the hearing was about to begin, Mr. Habré stood up and shouted, “Down with imperialism! Down with traitors! Allahu Akbar!” A dozen of his partisans rose from their seats nearby and chanted: “Long live Chad!” “Long live Habré!” “Mr. President, we are with you!” Continue reading