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The Netherlands: A Race to Bring Chad’s Ex-Dictator to Justice

Young Marathoners Raise 80,000 Euros for Hissène Habré Trial

(Amsterdam) – Thirty-eight students from the Netherlands ran in the New York City Marathon on November 6, 2011, to raise money to extradite the exiled former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, Human Rights Watch announced today.

The runners, under the banner “Run for Human Rights Watch,” raised 80,000 Euros from their friends and family to support Habré’s victims, who have been fighting for more than 20 years to bring him to justice. Habré, accused of massive crimes during his years in power, from 1982 to 1990, lives in Senegal, which refuses to prosecute him, and his victims now want to see him sent to Belgium for trial.

“It’s great to know our struggle has captured the attention of people so far away,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissène Habré, who as a prisoner under Habré was forced to dig graves for more than 500 fellow inmates. “The money they raised will help our voices be heard.”

Files of Habré’s political police, the DDS, which were discovered by Human Rights Watch, reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention and 12,321 victims of human rights violations.

“We were touched by the story of these survivors who have been fighting for justice for so long, and we wanted to help,” said Jeroen Grasveld, 25, a master’s degree student in economics at the University of Amsterdam who ran in the marathon on the survivors’ behalf. Another runner, Stephanie van Rapperd 25, an architecture student at the University of Delft, added, “We are going to follow this case until justice is done.”

Habré was first indicted in Senegal in 2000, but the country’s courts said that he could not be tried there. His victims then filed a case in Belgium. After years of investigation, a Belgian judge in September 2005 requested his extradition. Senegal asked the African Union to recommend a course of action and in July 2006, the AU called on Senegal to prosecute Habré “on behalf of Africa.” Years of stalling ensued, however, even after international donors fully funded the US$11.9 million trial budget in November 2010.

In May 2011, Senegal walked out of talks with the AU over the trial and made clear that it would not prosecute Habré in Senegal. On July 10, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal reversed a decision announced two days earlier to expel Habré to Chad, where he has been sentenced to death in absentia.

Belgium made a second extradition request, which is pending. On July 22, the government of Chad announced that it was in favor of extraditing Habré to Belgium. Rwanda recently announced that it was also willing to try Habré in its courts. 

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