Mass trial opens in Chad over ex-president Idriss Déby's death

FEB 14, 2023 LISTEN

The trial of hundreds of alleged rebels accused of assassinating former Chadian president Idriss Déby Itno has got underway in a special court located at a prison outside the capital, N'Djaména. It is the latest mass trial instigated by the transitional government, which has faced opposition from protesters and from the international community.

Chad's chief prosecutor and lawyers confirmed Monday that the hearings will be held behind closed doors at Klessoum prison, southeast of N'Djamena, where the suspects will also face charges of terrorism and undermining state security.

Chief prosecutor Mahamat El-Hadj Abba Nana said "over 400" people were on trial, and lawyers gave a figure of 454 – of whom 386 would be present for the hearings.

In early 2021, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), the most powerful of several rebel groups opposing Déby's regime, launched an offensive from its strongholds in southern Libya. 

On 20 April, the army announced that Déby had been killed while leading troops against the rebels.

A day earlier, he had been declared victor of a presidential election that gave him a sixth term in office. 

Déby, who had ruled Chad since 1990, was criticised for his authoritarian rule, but was a key ally in the West's anti-jihadist campaign in the Sahel, particularly due to the relative strength of Chad's military.

His son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby, immediately took over as head of a transitional military council, while promising free elections within 18 months.

However, in October 2022 the interim authorities extended the election deadline to 24 months, despite international opposition, with delegates of a "national reconciliation dialogue" - that was boycotted by most opposition groups - also saying Déby would be eligible to run for the presidency.


Chad has endured repeated uprisings and unrest since gaining independence from France in 1960. 

In recent months, security forces have detained hundreds of people in a crackdown on opposition protesters criticising the military junta's continued grip on power. 

Prosecutors put 401 people on trial in November at the notorious Koro Toro desert prison after anti-government protests in which dozens of people killed when police opened fire in the N'Djaména.

The interim government said around 50 people died in the clashes but opposition groups claim the actual toll was much higher, with hundreds injured.

The Koro Toro tribunal handed down jail terms of two to three years after just four days of hearings, prompting Chad's Bar Association of lawyers to denounce a "parody of justice".

The main leaders of Chad's opposition now live in hiding or in exile, even though the junta lifted a suspension of several opposition parties in January.

(with wires)