(Ndjamena) – The Chadian government has failed to provide court-ordered reparations to over 7,000 victims of grave crimes under the rule of former dictator Hissène Habré, three rights groups said today.
On March 25, 2015, after a three-month trial, a Chadian criminal court convicted 20 Habré-era security agents on charges of murder, torture, kidnapping, and arbitrary detention. The court also ruled that 7000 victims should receive a total of 75 billion CFA francs in reparations (US$129 million), ordering the government pay half and the convicted agents the other half. “It has been one year, and the Chadian government hasn’t deigned to execute the court’s decision.” said Jacqueline Moudeina, lead lawyer for the victims and president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). “This is a slap in the face to the victims and an affront to the rule of law.”
Habré himself has been on trial on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture since July 2015 before a specially constituted chamber within the Senegalese court system in Dakar. A verdict is expected on May 30, 2016.
The Chadian court had ordered the government to create a commission to oversee the payment of compensation. But the commission has not yet been created.
The court also ordered the government to erect a monument “in not more than one year” to those killed under Habré and to create a museum in the former headquarters of the Directorate of Documentation and Security (DDS), Habré’s political police, where victims were tortured. Neither of these projects has been started. Nor has the state prosecutor carried out his duties under the decision, particularly the identification and confiscation of the assets of the convicted persons.
“The government needs to implement the court’s decision so that the victims, at long last, can receive reparations for what they suffered and so that steps are taken to remember what happened to us,” 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 many of his fellow inmates. “We fought for 25 years for that decision and now the government is making us fight again to get the decision enforced.”
Habre’s one-party rule, from 1982-1990, 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. Habré was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno and fled to Senegal. His victims fought for decades to bring him to trial. In 2013, Senegal agreed on a plan to create Extraordinary African Chambers to conduct the trial within the Senegalese judicial system. That trial began on July 20, 2015 and ended on February 11, 2016.
The charges leading to the Chadian trial of Habré’s agents were filed by survivors in 2000, but the case languished until after Habré himself was arrested in Dakar in 2013. Many of the accused held key positions in the Chadian administration until they were arrested in 2013 and 2014.
During the landmark trial in Chad, about 50 victims described their torture and mistreatment at the hands of DDS agents. Among those sentenced to life in prison in the 2015 case in Chad were Saleh Younous, former head of the DDS, and Mahamat Djibrine, described as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad” by a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission.
“The trial and conviction of state officials for human rights crimes was a remarkable development in a country where impunity has been the norm,” said Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims since 1999. “The government’s failure to follow through on its obligations to the victims is a deep disappointment.”