Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by military officers after being heard by judge in Dakar, Senegal on July 2, 2013.

141 African human rights groups from 32 countries today issued an open letter expressing support for the efforts by Senegal and the African Union to prosecute crimes committed during the rule of former Chadian president Hisséne Habré.

Habré, who is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture from 1982 to 1990, was indicted in July 2013 by the Extraordinary African Chambers created by Senegal and the African Union, and is now in pretrial detention. If the judges decide that a trial is warranted, the case is scheduled to begin in early 2015.

“A fair and transparent trial for Mr. Habré, should the evidence support the case going forward, would be a milestone in the fight to hold accountable the perpetrators of atrocities,” the letter says.

“While some African leaders have claimed that Africa is unfairly targeted by international courts, a challenge has been to put teeth into African justice,” said George Kegoro, executive director of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya, one of the letter’s signatories. “This case could help to do that.”

Victims of crimes committed during Habré’s rule have campaigned for 25 years to bring him to court. But it was only in 2012 that the International Court of Justice enjoined Senegal to begin proceedings against Habré “without further delay” if it did not extradite him, and the new Senegalese government of Macky Sall promised to organize a trial.

“Hisséne Habré’s victims have been tenacious in their struggle to bring him to justice,” said Yasmin Sooka, director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa. “It is crucial for the trial and prosecutorial process to be exemplary, as it would send an important signal that it is possible to hold perpetrators to account in Africa and that victims of serious violations in Africa also matter.” Sooka was a member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and later of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone.

The open letter also calls on the government of Chad to provide fair and transparent trials for officials from Habré’s administration who are facing charges there, including two who are also being sought by the chambers’ prosecutor. Those trials are scheduled to begin on November 13th.

The signatories of the letter include the leading human rights organizations in Chad and Senegal.

Open letter on the case of Hisséne Habré and the Extraordinary African Chambers

We support an Africa fighting against impunity!

We, African NGOs, write to support the efforts by Senegal and the African Union to prosecute the worst international crimes committed during the government of former Chadian president Hisséne Habré and to urge the government of Chad and all African governments fully to cooperate with those efforts.

Habré’s government is alleged to have committed thousands of political killings and systematic torture before Habré was overthrown and fled to Senegal in 1990.  The survivors, widows and orphans have been tenaciously seeking justice for decades, but the previous government of Senegal threw up one obstacle after another.  In 2012, however, following a ruling by the International Court of Justice enjoining Senegal to bring Habré to justice “without further delay,” the new government of Macky Sall promised to do so. The victims’ perseverance was finally rewarded when Senegal and the African Union established the “Extraordinary African Chambers in the courts of Senegal” to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990. In July 2013, the Chambers charged Habré with crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes.

Since then, this innovative court has carried out four investigative missions in Chad and interviewed more than 2500 victims and witnesses. If the judges decide it is warranted, Mr. Habré’s trial is scheduled to begin in May 2015.

The Chambers’ chief prosecutor has also requested the indictment of five further officials from Mr. Habré’s administration suspected of being responsible for international crimes.  Two of them have been in detention in Chad since 2013 on charges stemming from complaints filed in 2000 by Habré-era victims in the Chadian courts. In October 2014, the Chadian government announced that the two men would be prosecuted in Chad, where a court in October 2014 held them over for trial, along with 27 other security officials. It is essential that the Chadian trials of members of Mr. Habré’s administration, for which the victims have campaigned so long, meet international standards of transparency and not be a simple pretext for the non-transfer of the accused persons to Dakar. 

A fair and transparent trial for Mr. Habré before the Extraordinary African Chambers, should the evidence support the case going forward, would be a milestone in the fight to hold accountable the perpetrators of atrocities. Senegal would be the first country in the world whose courts tried the leader of another country for alleged grave crimes under international law.  It would also show that African courts are capable of to providing justice for African victims for crimes committed in Africa.

We are pleased to support an Africa which fights against impunity.

List of signatories:

Angola

  1. Associação OMUNGA

Benin

  1. Association pour la Protection de l'Enfance Malheureuse

Burkina Faso

  1. Mouvement Burkinabè des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP)
  2. Cadre africain de Coopération Civilo- Militaire (CCCM)
  3. Coalition Nationale pour la Responsabilité de Protéger (CNRdeP)

Burundi

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture section Burundi
  2. Association Communautaire pour la Promotion et la Protection des Droits de l'Homme (ACPDH)

Cameroon

  1. Association Camerounaise pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme des Libertés et du Bien Etre (ACADEHLIB)

Chad

  1. Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ATPDH)
  2. Appel à la Paix et à la Réconciliation (CSAPR)
  3. Association des Victimes de Crimes du Régime de Hissène Habré (AVCRHH)
  4. Public Interest Law Center
  5. Droit de l’Homme sans frontière (DHSF)
  6. Association pour les libertés fondamentales au Tchad (APFLT)
  7. Association pour le soutien des enfants en détresse (ASED)
  8. Union des syndicats de Tchad (UST)
  9. Ligue tchadienne pour les droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
  10. Association Tchadienne pour la non-violence (ATNV)
  11. Association des Femmes juristes

Congo

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture section Congo
  2. Association pour les Droits de L’Homme et l’Univers Carcéral (ADHUC)
  3. Observatoire congolais des droits de l'Homme (OCDH)
  4. Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l'Homme (RPDH)
  5. Réseau International pour la Bonne Gouvernance (RIBG)

Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Coalition Ivoirienne pour la CPI
  2. Réseau Equitas Côte d'Ivoire
  3. Observatoire Ivoirien des Droits de l'Homme (OIDH)
  4. Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (MIDH)
  5. Espoir des populations pauvres en milieu rural

Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. Aprodivi
  2. Action Contre l'Impunité pour les Droits Humains, ACIDH
  3. Association des armateurs sur le Lac Kivu
  4. Agence de Diffusion de Droit International Humanitaire en Afrique Centrale
  5. Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Développement (CVPD)
  6. Groupe Lufalanga pour la Justice et la Paix
  7. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ)
  8. Promotion de la Démocratie et Protection des Droits Humains
  9. Synergie des Femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles
  10. Initiative Congolaise pour la justice et la paix
  11. Culture pour la Paix et la Justice 
  12. Club des amis du droit du Congo
  13. Synergie des ONG congolaises pour les Victimes
  14. Dauphins Munzihirwa-Kataliko(DMK)
  15. Justice Plus (JP Bunia)
  16. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et de Développement Communautaire(APDHUD)
  17. Centre Pour la Justice et la Réconciliation (C.J.R.)
  18. Association Congolaise des Droits de l’Homme (ACDHO)
  19. Nouvelle Société Civile (NSC)
  20. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l’Humanité (SVH)
  21. Association Africaine de défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO)
  22. La Ligue des Electeurs (L.E)
  23. Groupe Justice et Libération
  24. Human Rescue
  25. Fondation Révérend Père Henri Matota pour le Développement et la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (FRPHMD)
  26. Coordination Société Civile de Kinshasa
  27. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle
  28. Coalition Nationale pour la CPI de la RDC
  29. Front de Lutte contre la Pauvreté en RDC
  30. Réseau des Associations des Droits de l'Homme du Sud Kivu, RADHOSKI
  31. Carrefour Juridique Culturel
  32. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et du Développement dans les Pays des Grands Lacs en Afrique
  33. Fondation Congolaise pour la Promotion des Droits humains et la Paix, FOCDP
  34. Ligue pour la Promotion et le Développement Intégral de la Femme et de l'Enfant
  35. Action Humanitaire Justice pour les Victimes
  36. Collectif des ONG pour la Promotion de la Justice
  37. Forum International des Femmes de l’Espace Francophone (FIFEF)
  38. Association nationale pour l'évaluation environnementale
  39. Comité des observateurs des droits de l’Homme en RD. du Congo (CODHO)
  40. Laboratoire anti-corruption, Anti-antivaleurs et Antifraude
  41. Comité Anti-corruption (CLAC)/Katanga

Egypt

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

Equatorial Guinea

  1. EG Justice

Eritrea

  1. Human Rights Concern

Gambia

  1. International Institute for Child Protection

Ghana

  1. Black Unity Foundation
  2. Media Foundation for West Africa

Kenya

  1. International Centre for Policy and Conflict
  2. Kenyans for Peace With Truth and Justice
  3. Africa Centre for Open Governance
  4. The Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists

Liberia

  1. Global Justice and Research Project

Madagascar

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture section Madagascar

Malawi

  1. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)

Mauritania

  1. SOS Esclaves

Morocco

  1. Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH)
  2. Association Adala- Justice

Niger

  1.  Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture section Niger
  2. Compassion Solidarité Enfants du Niger
  3. l'Union des Jeunes pour la Protection de la Démocratie et le Droit de l'Homme (UJPDDH)
  4. Organisation Contre la Pauvreté  (OCP)

Nigeria

  1. Access to Justice
  2. International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
  3. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)
  4. Nigerian Coalition on the international Criminal Court
  5. Alliances for Africa (AfA)
  6. Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)

Rwanda

  1. Human Rights First Rwanda Association
  2. Ligue des Droits de la Personne dans la Région des Grands Lacs

Senegal

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture section Sénégal
  2. Amnesty International section Sénégal
  3. Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits Humains
  4. L’Organisation nationale des droites de l’homme (ONDH)
  5. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme  (RADDHO)
  6. Trust Africa
  7. Section sénégalaise de la Société Internationale pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (SIDH)
  8. WARIPNET
  9. Groupe Agora Pour L’Education Aux Droits De L’Enfant Et A La Paix
  10. Article 19 – Afrique de l’Ouest

Sierra Leone

  1. Center for Accountability and Rule of Law

Sudan

  1. Darfur Bar Association
  2. Noon Center for Legal Consultations & Human Rights

South Africa

  1. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  2. Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa  (ACT)
  3. The Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa

South Sudan

  1. Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ)
  2. South Sudan Law Society (SSLS)
  3. South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections
  4. Standard Action Liaison Focus

Tanzania

  1. Asylum Access, Tanzania
  2. Dogodogo Centre
  3. Tanzania Child Rights Forum (TCRF)

Togo

  1. Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme
  2. Mouvement d'Action pour le Renouveau Social (MARS)
  3. Solidarité et Action pour le Développement Durable (SADD)
  4. Association des Jeunes Engagés pour l'Action Humanitaire (AJEAH)
  5. Alliance Internationale pour les Droits Fondamentaux de l'Homme (AIDFH)
  6. Association pour le Bien-Etre Juvénile
  7. Association Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme (ATDH)
  8. Association des Praticiens de l'Education au Développement, aux Droits Humains et à la Solidarité
  9. Observatoire Togolais des Droits de l'Homme (OTDH)

Uganda

  1. Platform for Social Justice in Kampala
  2. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
  3. Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network Sodann

Zimbabwe 

  1. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
  2. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
  3. Counselling Services Unit
  4. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Pan African

  1. Coalition for an Effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  2. Pan African Lawyers Union
  3. Africa Legal Aid