A trial for Habré?

14 December 2010 by Reed Brody

Will the Chadian victims of Hissène Habré’s regime finally achieve justice? After a successful donors’ meeting to finance his trial in Dakar, and a curious legal decision by the ECOWAS calling for a special court to try the former dictator, the answer depends more than ever on the political will of Senegal, where Habré has lived since his fall 20 years ago.

On December 1st, 1990, when Hissène Habré was ousted from power in Chad and fled to Senegal, the doors of his prisons flung open and the survivors began their long odyssey to bring their tormentor to justice.

In January 2000, inspired by the London arrest of Augusto Pinochet, a group of victims led by Souleymane Guengueng, a former prisoner who had watched hundreds of cellmates die, went to Senegal to seek justice. To their surprise, a Senegalese judge indicted Habré on charges of crimes against humanity and torture. But, after government interference —which was denounced by two UN rapporteurs—appeals courts ruled that Senegal could not prosecute crimes committed outside of Senegal because it had not enacted legislation to implement its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.

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