A court in Senegal is scheduled to deliver a verdict Monday in the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre. Habre was tried on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes before a special tribunal in Dakar, the Extraordinary African Chambers.
The verdict could mark the end of a battle to bring Habre to justice in Senegal, to which he fled and where he has lived since being overthrown in a coup in 1990.
“It took 25 years of relentless campaigning by Hissene Habre’s victims to make this trial happen,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch.
The tribunal indicted the former Chadian leader in 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges said there was sufficient evidence to bring Habre to trial.
It was the first time that courts in one country had prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said.
The trial began July 20, 2015, amid resistance from Habre, who had to be carried into the courtroom and would not recognize the legitimacy of the court. His lawyers refused to appear, forcing the court to appoint lawyers to represent him.
Bandoum Bandjim, a former member of Habre's political police, testified during the trial that the police director often went to Habre with documents to order the release, torture or execution of prisoners.
“There were official documents addressed to his excellency, President Hissene Habre, and the director took these files to the presidency … and either the persons were set free or executed or tortured. This I can confirm,” Bandjim said in court.
Sexual slavery and rape also were cited during trial.
“During our stay at Ouadi Doum [military camp], we didn’t receive any medical care. We didn’t get proper food. They just brought us as sexual slaves,” victim Kaltouma Defallah said in court.
Defallah said that when government officials finally gave the women medication, it was to make sure they did not get pregnant.
“The Hissene Habre trial is a watershed in the fight for accountability for the world’s worst crimes,” HRW's Brody said.