A special criminal court in Chad has convicted accomplices of Chads former President Hissene Habre for crimes of torture and murder committed between 1982 and 1990.
The criminal court in Ndjamena sentenced seven ex-policemen to life imprisonment. Three others were sentenced to 20 years of hard labour. The other convictions ranged from 7 to 20 years in prison. Four of the in total 28 accused have been acquitted.
The defendants were accused of murder, torture, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, and assault and battery. Many of them were top security agents under Habres rule and kept key positions in the Chadian administration until they were arrested in 2013 and 2014.
Among the seven men sentenced to life imprisonment were Saleh Younous, former head of the Directorate of Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), Habres political police, and Mahamat Djibrine, described by a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission as one of the most feared torturers in Chad.
The five other men to receive life sentences were sentenced in absentia, as they had fled Chad after Habres overthrow.
On top of the convictions, the court also ordered that approximately $125 million in reparations must be paid in compensation to over 7,000 victims. Moreover, it held that the Chadian government was liable for the defendants crimes and consequently ordered the government to pay half of the amount of the reparations. The other half is to be paid by the defendants assets.
The government also has to erect a monument to those who were killed under Habre and turn the former DDS headquarters into a museum.
Human Rights Watch calls the torture convictions a victory for justice. Twenty-four years after the end of the Habre dictatorship, and fourteen years after the survivors filed their complaints, todays convictions and the order of reparations are a stunning victory for Hissene Habres victims, Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch said. The sentencing of state officials for human rights crimes is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past crimes is the norm.
Meanwhile, Habre is awaiting his trial in Senegal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, which will be dealt with by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal.