Hissène Habré Case: a historic and long-awaited verdict


(Paris, Dakar, N’Djamena) On 30 May 2016 in Dakar, the Extraordinary African Chambers within the Senegalese court system (EAC), will deliver their verdict in the trial of Hissène Habré. While the EAC will rule on the guilt and, potentially, on the sentence of the former Chadian dictator, charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, our organisations welcome the holding of this exemplary trial – leading as it will to a historic verdict – but question whether it will guarantee adequate reparations for victims.

“The verdict in this trial, which represents a strong commitment to tackle impunity in Africa and which, we hope, will reflect the reality and gravity of the violations committed during Habré ’s regime, is an opportunity to vindicate the long fight for truth, justice and reparation of thousands of victims, who have been waiting for this moment for over 20 years.”

Our organisations

Hissène Habré stands accused before the EAC of being responsible, during his rule in Chad from 1982 to 1990, for murders, summary executions, arbitrary detentions and acts of torture, amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Under his presidency, close to 40,000 people were assassinated and over 200,000 were victims of torture and other violence.

The trial, which lasted seven months, has allowed around 100 witnesses and victims to be heard and has told the facts and story of the fierce repression of the Chadian people. Our organisations welcome the organisation of this trial, although we regret that charges of crimes of sexual violence were not brought against him.

“We would like to acknowledge the survivors, the States and the African Union, who participated, organised and supported this trial, demonstrating not only that Africa can judge those responsible for the gravest crimes, including former heads of State, but also that attempts to allow impunity will always be countered by the determination of victims, and the NGOs who support them, to see that justice is done.”

Our organisations

On the basis of this long-awaited verdict, our organisations call on the EAC to put in place a comprehensive system of reparation for the victims of the Habré regime and their beneficiaries. Even though victims’ rights to reparation, in the form of restitution, compensation and rehabilitation are foreseen in the Statute establishing the EAC, it is now necessary to clarify the procedure and applicable deadlines for submitting Civil Parties’ requests. Furthermore, the fund for victims anticipated in the statute is not yet operational, even though the EAC will no longer be in place once the judgment is final.

“It is essential that the judges in the Extraordinary African Chambers clarify, as soon as possible and in a consultative process, the procedures according to which claims for reparation will be examined. If found guilty, it will in the first instance be Habré’s responsibility to finance reparation measures, but thought should be given to the fund for victims.”

Our organisations

A delegation representing our organisations, as well as our lawyers, will be present in Dakar for the verdict of the Extraordinary African Chambers on 30 May 2016 and will also be participating in a series of meeting on international justice.

Read more in our special “dossier” on the Habré case


The trial, which took place between 20 July 2015 and 11 February 2016, was the result of more than 20 years of intensive efforts by victims and the organisations supporting them, including FIDH and its member organisations in Chad, Senegal and Belgium.

As early as 1999, strategic exchanges were held between the Association of Victims of Crime and Political Repression in Chad (AVCRP), FIDH and its member organisations in Chad and Senegal to consider initiating legal action. In 2000, Chadian victims represented by Sidiki Kaba, at that time Vice-President of FIDH, filed a criminal complaint in Senegal, which was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the Senegalese courts lacked jurisdiction. FIDH contributed to the subsequent referral to the United Nations Committee against Torture, which called on Senegal, not to extradite Habré, despite wanting to do so.

In 2001, FIDH, together with Human Rights Watch and AVCRP, undertook a mission of inquiry in Chad, during which, in the buildings of the former Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité in N’Djaména, thousands of documents archived by Hissène Habré’s sinister political police were consulted. The legal case against the former dictator was thus consolidated.

FIDH and its member organisations subsequently supported a criminal complaint filed by victims against Hissène Habré in the Belgian courts, based on universal jurisdiction. After four long years, the investigating judge charged Hissène Habré with war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture, and issued an international warrant for his arrest. However, in 2005, the Senegalese courts declared themselves without jurisdiction to rule on the extradition request and referred the matter to the African Union for guidance.

Thereafter, in parallel with exchanges between victims’ organisations in Chad, FIDH member organisations in Chad and Senegal and other members of the International Committee for the fair trial of Hissène Habré, followed FIDH’s important advocacy work with the AU, influential States as well as the United Nations and European Union, leading to the AU decision in 2006 asking Senegal to judge Hissène Habré in the name of Africa. The advocacy work conducted with the Senegalese authorities also led to the adoption, in 2007, of a law permitting investigation of cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed outside of Senegalese territory and, in 2008, to a constitutional amendment introducing an exception to the non-retroactivity of criminal law for international crimes, thus eliminating the obstacles to the judgment of Hissène Habré.

Finally, it was only after a decision by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States – in proceedings initiated by Hissène Habré’s lawyers and in which FIDH participated as amicus curiae – that Senegal decided to constitute the Extraordinary African Chambers within the Senegalese court system for the judgment, at last, of Hissène Habré.
Read more