ACILA Welcomes Decision Sentencing Habré to Life Imprison for Crimes Against Humanity
The Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) has welcomed the decision by the Special court of Senegal that sentenced Hissène Habré, former military ruler of Chad, to life imprison for crimes against humanity, torture, and slavery.
In a statement, Executive Director of ACILA, Mr. William Nyarko, said that the historic decision by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) established by the African Union and Senegal to bring Habré to trial in a court in Senegal represents an important precedent in that this is the first time an African country has prosecuted and convicted a former leader of another African country for gross human rights abuses committed in the latter's country.
“It is also an interesting model of a hybrid court for international justice because the prosecutors and investigative judges were nominated by Senegal’s justice minister and appointed by the AU. The president of the tribunal was a senior judge from Burkina Faso who had served as a Judge with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda”, Nyarko added.
In addition, the case also shows that the Africa Union and African States can act to stop impunity for international crimes in Africa when they demonstrate political will.
He said that though the Habr�� decision shows post-facto accountability at work nearly 26 years after the Chadian dictator left office, progress needs to be made to hold leaders accountable when they are in office, adding that the current position of African leaders for immunity is unsupported by international criminal justice.
The statement comes following a decision on May 30 by a special court in Senegal established by agreement between the AU and Senegal to bring Habré to trial for international crimes committed during his rule as a military dictator from 1982 to 1990.
Habré remained unremorseful when Mr. Gberdao Gustave Kam, president of the special court read out the verdict to him: "Hissene Habré, this court finds you guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, forced slavery, and kidnapping."
According to a report by Agence France Press (AFP) Chadian investigators found that at least 40,000 people were killed during Habré's rule, which was marked by fierce repression of opponents and the targeting of rival ethnic groups.
Witnesses also recounted the horror of life in Chad's prisons, describing in graphic detail abusive and often deadly punishments inflicted by Habré's feared secret police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).
Victims were subject to electric shocks and waterboarding while some had gas sprayed in their eyes or spice rubbed into their genitals, the court heard.
Habré's defence team argued that he may have been unaware of abuses on the ground.