Habré: The benefits and fragile hopes of a new model

31 May 2016 by Thierry Cruvellier

If there was any surprise in the judgment of former president of Chad Hissène Habré, it was that there wasn’t a single surprise. On May 30, 2016, Habré was found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture for which he received a life sentence. Apart from a minor charge relating to the transfer of prisoners of war, every accusation against him was upheld by the trial chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), an inter-African court created to try him, based in Dakar, Senegal [IJT-184]. 

Former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré listening to judges handing down a life sentence against him (photo: Stephanie van den Berg)
Image caption: 
Former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré listening to judges handing down a life sentence against him (photo: Stephanie van den Berg)

Reading a summary of a judgment that is yet to be published, presiding judge Gberdao Gustave Kam said that Habré “had control over most of the security apparatus” as well the army during his eight-year rule over Chad, from June 1982 to December 1990, when he had “created and maintained a climate of total impunity”. During this entire period, the court said, large-scale waves of repression followed the same pattern and the same objective: to repress anyone who may wish to oppose him. Habré and his security organs “created a system where impunity and terror were the law”. Not only did he authorize the establishment of a network of prisons, he also personally ordered the murder of at least two men, and participated in the interrogation of prisoners, including sometimes their torture, said the court. His contribution was “essential and decisive”. Habré had “consolidated all power” in his hands. He was the “chief organizer at the central level”, the court said.

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