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Hissène Habré Case: Death of a Victims Leader

Ismaël Hachim Will Not Live to See the Trial of the Former Chadian Dictator

(N'Djamena) - The International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissène Habré has learned with profound grief of the death of Mr. Ismaël Hachim Abdallah, the president of an association of victims of the former Chadian president. The Committee wishes to address its most sincere condolences and express its profound compassion towards Mr. Hachim's family and relatives.

Mr. Hachim was victim of a car accident on September 9, the day before the Aïd el Fitr holiday.

This tragic disappearance reminds us of how urgent it is to move forward with the trial of the former dictator, who has been living in Senegal since his downfall in Chad twenty years ago. Every month, victims pass away without seeing justice achieved, even though the African Union asked Senegal, over four years ago, to try Hissène Habré "on behalf of Africa." The UN Committee against Torture also condemned Senegal in 2006 for violating its international obligations and enjoined the government to bring the former Chadian dictator to justice.

Unfortunately, Senegal has pursued a number of delaying measures over the past ten years and systematically delayed the opening of the case against Hissène Habré.

Mr. Hachim was arrested on April 2, 1989 by Habré's political police - the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS) - and ferociously tortured. His arrest was part of a campaign of repression against the Zaghawa ethnic group, following the rebellion of three Zaghawa leaders.

Ismaël Hachim was detained for twenty months in inhuman conditions in an underground jail know as the "Piscine." This pool, a remnant of the colonial era, was covered over under Habré's regime and divided into a number of small cells of a few square meters each. The DDS piled up tens of people in these cramped and overheated cells, making it impossible for the prisoners to lie down, and providing them with scant food and water. The DDS' archives reveal that many prisoners died in the Piscine on a daily basis.

In a recent French TV documentary on the Habré case, Ismaël Hachim described with great dignity his stay in the Piscine, where he was forced to sleep on the corpses of prisoners whom the DDS let rot in the cells, sometimes for many days in a row. (See the video at the following link...)

Mr. Hachim was also subjected to the "arbatachar," a frequently-used torture method, which involved tying all four of a prisoner's limbs behind his back in order to interrupt the bloodstream and quickly induce a state of paralysis.

When he was released from jail in December 1990 following Habré's downfall, Ismaël Hachim was extremely weakened, both physically and psychologically. He was filmed shortly after his release by Chadian television. In a moving video, Hachim, haggard and emaciated struggled to find the words to describe his profound suffering in jail.

Ismaël Hachim's fight for justice led him to be named president of the Association of Victims of Political Crimes and Repressions (AVCRP). He dedicated years of his life to carrying the voice of victims in order to ensure that the crimes to which they had been subjected would not remain unpunished and that this dark page of Chadian history would not be forgotten.

Ismaël Hachim stands as the latest person in a long list of victims who have died before seeing justice done.

Beyond his commitment to bringing Hissène Habré to court, Ismaël Hachim also strived to bring justice to victims in Chad. During a speech in N'Djamena in June 2003, Ismaël Hachim declared: "Hissène Habré is sought after abroad, but we, his victims, remain forgotten. Our torturers and killers wander freely among us every day without fear of the justice system to which we filed our cases a long time ago. We are still waiting for Chad's society to recognize the suffering and the challenges we and our family have had to endure." In 2010, the victims are still waiting.

The Committee pays tribute to Ismaël Hachim Abdallah, whose fight for justice will be continued by the victims and the human rights organizations supporting them.

The Steering Committee of the International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissène Habré:

  • Jacqueline MOUDEINA (Association for the Promotion and the Defense of Human Rights - ATPDH)
  • Reed BRODY (Human Rights Watch)
  • Souleymane GUENGUENG (founder, AVCRP)
  • Dobian ASSINGAR (International Federation of the League of Human Rights - FIDH)
  • Alioune TINE (African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights - RADDHO)

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