(Dakar) – The Chadian government’s refusal to transfer two alleged accomplices of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to the special court in Senegal trying crimes during his rule will not prevent his trial. The Chadian government should try the two men and others accused of Habré-era crimes in Chad based on international standards.
On October 18, 2014, the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Courts of Senegal, created to try the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes in Chad between 1982 and 1990, announced that Chad had refused to transfer Saleh Younouss and Mahamat Djibrine to the court. Both men are detained in Chad on charges filed in national courts. The Chadian government had also refused the chambers´ request for permission to go to Chad to interrogate and possibly indict the two. Younouss was a director of the DDS, Habré’s political police. Djibrine was known as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad,” according to Chad’s National Truth Commission.
“The Chadian victims’ goal in seeking justice in Senegal since 2000 has been the trial of Hissène Habré, the head of state who directly controlled the security apparatus and had primary responsibility for his government’s actions,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has been working with the victims since 1999. “The Extraordinary African Chambers will continue their work and if the investigating judges determine there is sufficient evidence, Habré’s trial should begin in early 2015.”
Habré was president of Chad from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990 by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, after which Habré fled to Senegal and lived in exile. Habre’s one-party rule was marked by widespread atrocities, including the targeting of certain ethnic groups. DDS files recovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001 reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention, and 12,321 victims of human rights violations. He was indicted by the Extraordinary African Chambers in July 2013 and placed in pretrial detention.
The chambers’ prosecutor also requested the indictment of three other officials from Habré’s administration suspected of being responsible for international crimes. They are Guihini Korei, another former DDS director; Abakar Torbo, former director of the DDS prison service; and Zakaria Berdei, former special security adviser to the presidency, who has been implicated in the repression in southern Chad in 1984. Berdei is also believed to be in Chad, though he is not in custody. Torbo and Korei remain at large and appear to be subjects of international arrest warrants issued by Chad in May 2013 and by the Extraordinary African Chambers later that year.
The chambers have been seeking the transfer of Younouss and Djibrine from Chad for over a year. Faced with Chad’s stalling on the transfer, the chambers’ judges sent a request to Chad on October 13 for permission to visit Chad to interview and indict the two detainees. The Chadian government, which until then had not given a clear answer regarding the two, rejected the request in a letter dated October 14. Chad's focal point for the case, Ousman Haroun, informed the chambers that Younouss and Djibrine could not be the subject of a second indictment for acts for which they had already been indicted by the Chadian investigating judge looking into similar charges.
Victims of Habré´s government filed torture and murder cases before Chadian courts in 2000 against several dozen Habré-era security agents, but it was not until 2013, when the Extraordinary African Chambers were created in Dakar, that a Chadian investigating judge indicted Younouss, Djibrine and 28 others. On September 4, the judge, Amir Abdoulaye Issa, issued a referral decision (arrêt de renvoi) sending for trial the Younouss and Djibrine cases and the cases of 19 other Habré-era agents. The judge dismissed proceedings against the other 9 agents.
“The Chadian authorities need to ensure that the trials of Saleh Younouss and Mahamat Djibrine and all of Hissène Habré alleged accomplices are fair, transparent and in full accordance with international standards,” Brody said. “The victims filed these cases 14 long years ago, and it’s high time for justice to be done in Chad as well as in Senegal.”