Their fight for accountability has lasted 14 years, but victims of Chad’s Hissène Habré regime finally saw justice done last month, when 20 former security agents were convicted of torture-related charges and ordered to pay reparations.
The approximately 7,000 victims participating in the trial in N’Djaména will split a total of 75 billion CFA francs (about US$125 million) to be paid by the defendants and the Chadian government. The government was also mandated to erect a monument to those who were killed during Habré’s reign, and will turn the former secret police headquarters into a museum.
During the trial, 50 victims testified about the abuses they suffered.
Human Rights Watch Counsel Reed Brody:
“Twenty-four years after the end of the Habré dictatorship, and fourteen years after the survivors filed their complaints, today’s convictions and the order of reparations are a stunning victory for Hissène Habré’s victims. The sentencing of state officials for human rights crimes is not only a testament to the courage and tenacity of the victims, it is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has been the norm.”
Habré’s government, which ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, is accused of thousands of political killings and widespread torture. The defendants in the trial were charged with several crimes, including murder, torture and kidnapping.
The convicted included Mahamat Djibrine, described as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad” by a 1992 truth commission, as well as Saleh Younouss, the former head of the notorious Directorate of Documentation and Security Directorate—Habré’s secret police force that allegedly tortured and executed the former leader’s political opponents.
Habré himself continues to await trial in Senegal, where he has lived in exile since being overthrown in 1990. Habré expected to go on trial in May or June at the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court set up by the African Union and Senegal to try the former ruler.
Proceedings against the former government agents were attended by hundreds of Chadians, a testament to the magnitude of the trial. It was a long time coming, but the victims of Chad’s past regime can finally claim a victory for justice.
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