Hissène Habré convicted: a historic verdict for the victims

On 30 May 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers found former president Hissène Habré guilty of acts of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated during his presidency of Chad between 1982 and 1990. The Chambers sentenced him to life in prison. The verdict is a victory for the thousands of victims who have been fighting for justice for more than 20 years and to have their voices heard before an impartial court.

Beginning in 2000, FIDH and its member organisations in Chad and Senegal supported the victims’ first legal action against Hissène Habré in Senegal, his place of residence. In the end, Senegalese courts dismissed the complaint saying it was not within their jurisdiction. During a 2001 mission, FIDH and Human Rights Watch were able to collect thousands of documents from the records of Hissène Habré’s notorious political police force thereby consolidating the judicial dossier of the former dictator. Not wanting to extradite Hissène Habré to Belgium, where he was charged with international crimes, Senegal asked the African Union (AU) to handle the case.

Intense advocacy work by FIDH and its members before the AU, the influential States, as well as the United Nations and the European Union, contributed to the AU’s decision in 2006 to ask Senegal to prosecute Hissène Habré on behalf of Africa. These same advocacy efforts also led to constitutional and legal amendments that removed the obstacles to holding Hissène Habré’s trial in Senegal, as well as to the establishment of the Extraordinary African Chambers within the Senegalese judicial system to judge Hissène Habré. Since 2015, FIDH has been supporting one of the lawyers for the victims standing as civil parties in the trial.

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