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The regime of Chadian ex-President Hissène Habré (1982-1990) was responsible for thousands of cases of political killings, torture, “disappearances,” and arbitrary detention. Habré, who lives in exile in Senegal, was indicted by a court there in 2000 on charges of torture and crimes against humanity before the Senegalese Supreme Court ruled that he could not be tried in Senegal. Habré now faces similar charges in Belgium. In Chad, however, almost 15 years after Habré’s ouster, his victims wait for the Chadian government and society to recognize the suffering that they and their families endured.

In 1992, a national Truth Commission established by current Chadian President Idriss Déby recommended the prosecution in Chad of those who participated in crimes during Habré’s regime. It also called for the officers of Habré’s political police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), to be relieved of their state security duties and for measures to be taken to honor the memory of the victims. These recommendations by the Truth Commission have largely been ignored. Notably:

  • Many leaders of the DDS and other Habré-era state security organs still hold key administrative or security posts. Their presence intimidates former victims and human rights defenders and in some cases facilitates attacks on them, creating obstacles to restoring the rule of law in Chad.
  • The government has never prosecuted Habré’s accomplices. The cases filed by victims in Chadian courts in October 2000 against ex-DDS agents are stalled because the Chadian investigative judge does not have the necessary financial means, security, or personnel at his disposal to allow him to properly carry out his investigation.
  • The Truth Commission’s recommendations to “construct a monument honoring the memory of the victims of Habré’s repression,” to “designate a day for prayer and contemplation for the victims,” and to “transform the former DDS headquarters and underground prison known as the Piscine into a museum” have never been implemented.

Moreover, no material reparations have been given to the victims or their families even though the Truth Commission calculated that Habré’s regime produced “more than 40,000 victims, more than 80,000 orphans, more than 30,000 widows, and more than 200,000 persons who found themselves, due to this repression, to be without moral or material support.”1

The Chadian government has supported the international cases filed against Hissène Habré, giving full cooperation to the Belgian judge when he visited Chad, granting the victims access to the DDS archives, and lifting Hissène Habré’s immunity from the jurisdiction of the Belgian courts. As important as a foreign tribunal’s judgment against Hissène Habré would be, it would not guarantee full justice to the victims of his regime nor would it permit Chadian society to confront its past before finally moving on. Unfortunately, the Chadian government has not taken complementary measures at home to ensure such justice.

[1] Commission d’Enquête Nationale du Ministère Tchadien de la Justice, Les crimes et détournements de l’ex-Président Habré et de ses complices, Éditions L’Harmattan, 1993, p. 97.

index  |  next>>July 2005