(Dakar) – The former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré goes on trial on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after being toppled in a coup, charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture before a specially commissioned court in Senegal. In advance of the trial, Human Rights Watch has released a new video, “Facing Justice: Victims Bring Dictator Hissène Habré to Trial.”
Habré will stand trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habre ruled Chad. The president of the Trial Chamber is Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, who will sit with two senior Senegalese judges.
Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political killings as well as systematic torture during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. The trial will be the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another country for alleged human rights crimes.
On March 25, 2015, a court in Chad convicted 20 top security agents of Habré’s government on torture and murder charges.
“The Hissène Habré trial shows that it is possible for victims, with perseverance and resolve, to bring a dictator to court,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the survivors since 1999. “This case is a wake-up call to tyrants that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims.”
A key step in building the case was Human Rights Watch’s discovery of the files kept by Habré’s political police (the “DDS”), which document the atrocities committed against prisoners.
A Human Rights Watch team will be in Dakar from July 12 throughout the trial, which is expected to last at least three months. Leaders of the victims’ campaign will also be in Dakar from July 12.
Further information on the Habré case:
• https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/27/qa-case-hissene-habre-extraordinary-african-chambers-senegal (English)
• https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2015/04/27/questions-et-reponses-sur-laffaire-hissene-habre-devant-les-chambres-africaines (French)
• https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/17/legal-documents/documents-juridiques (English + French)
• https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/27/chronology-habre-case (English)
• https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2015/04/27/les-grandes-lignes-de-laffaire-habre (French)