29 July 2016

Chad: Senegal Court Orders Habre to Pay for Chad Atrocities

Photo: Le Pays

Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre has been ordered by a court to pay up to tens of thousands of euros to each of his victims. In May, Habre was sentenced to life in prison for atrocities during his eight-year reign.

On Friday, a special court set up by the African Union to try Hissene Habre ordered Chad's former dictator to pay compensation amounting to 30,000 euros ($33,000) per victim for those who suffered rape, arbitrary detention and imprisonment at the hands of his regime. The court has not yet announced how many people would receive such compensation.

More than 40,000 people were killed in Chad during Habre's 1982-90 dictatorship. The 73-year-old has also been convicted on several charges of atrocity, including rape and sexual slavery. In May, Extraordinary African Chambers, a special criminal court established by the African Union and based in Senegal, sentenced Habre to life imprisonment in what was the first trial of a former head of state held in sub-Saharan Africa.

"This case was not started by a prosecutor in The Hague, or by the Security Council," Reed Brody, a counsel for Human Rights Watch who had worked on the case for years, said, referring to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. "The architects, the visionaries of this case, are the Chadian victims themselves and their supporters."

'We won'

In May, victims of Habre's eight-year dictatorship had gathered in Dakar to await the verdict of the nearly one-year trial and celebrated in Senegal's capital after it was announced. In Chad, survivors of the dictatorship took to the streets, stopping traffic as they the spread that word that "we won!" Clement Abaifouta, the president of an association of survivors of Habre's regime, called the judgment the "crowning achievement of a long and hard fight against impunity."

"The feeling is one of complete satisfaction," Abaifouta said. "Today Africa has won," he added. "We say thank you to Senegal and to Africa for judging Africa."

Habre fled Chad in 1990 and ever since has lived in Dakar, where he was detained in July 2013. He has claimed that the proceedings were politically motivated and refused legal representation, though the court appointed Senegalese lawyers for him.

Idriss Deby, the current president of Chad and a former military adviser for Habre who helped bring about the dictator's ouster, had supported the trial. Habre refused to address the court during his trial.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the verdict had shown that "nobody was above the law" at a time when the world was "scarred by a constant stream of atrocities."

mkg/kms (EFE, AFP)

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