Trial of 21 Habré henchmen stirs emotions
After a 24-year campaign, victims and their families are finally face to face with their alleged torturers, following the start of the trial of 21 alleged accomplices of former Chadian president Hissène Habré in N’Djamena last week.
Entering the courtroom in the Palais du 15 Janvier, once the seat of the National Assembly, makes her heart accelerate, says Fatimé. The 60-something woman, who gave only her first name, is emotionally overwhelmed. “All the memories are flooding back: my arrest by DDS agents, the way they beat me when I was incarcerated,” she said, referring to the Habré regime’s political police, the Directorate of Documentation and Security (DDS). “They wanted me to say that I knew some political activists, but I ... knew nobody. I asked them why they didn’t just kill me.”
Fatimé is just one of the dozens of alleged DDS victims who have brought the case forward. According to Human Rights Watch, the DDS archives, which HRW accessed in 2001, show that “large-scale human rights violations” occurred within DDS prisons during the 1982-1990 Habré regime. According to their report, the DDS held 12,321 inmates – 1,208 of whom were executed or had died during their detention.