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Country Watch


A Look at the Economic, Political, and Social Events that Shape International Law Around the World


Former Chad President Hissène Habré Charged With Crimes Against Humanity


On July 1, 2013, Senegalese prosecutors charged Chad’s former President Hissène Habré with war crimes, torture, and crimes against human- ity. Habré replaced Félix Malloum as the Prime Minister of Chad on August 29, 1979. However, Habré’s term ended a year later, when Malloum’s government ended. Although Goukouni Oued- dei was elected to the presidency, Habré ousted Oueddei on January 7, 1982 and became the new President.


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Known as “Africa’s Pinochet,” the former dictator was accused of committing war crimes during the Chadian-Libyan conflict between 1978 and 1987. Under Muammar al-Gaddafi’s rule, Libya in- vaded Chad in 1980 by occupying the Aozou Strip. In the years that followed, Libya and Chad fought over occupation of Chadian territory. It was not until 1987 that Habré, backed by support from the United States and France, prevailed and ended the conflict.


After usurping power from Oueddei, Habré cre- ated the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), which actively sought, tortured, and exe- cuted opposition members. Documented torture methods included burning with incandescent lights, forced asphyxia, electric shocks, forced consumption of water, forced inhalation of auto- mobile exhaust fumes, and a torture technique of squeezing prisoners’ heads between sticks known as “supplice de baguettes.” Although the exact number of people that the Habré regime killed remains unknown, Human Rights Watch estimates that he authorized tens of thousands of political murders and instances of psychologi- cal torture. The death toll under his reign is esti-


mated at around 40,000. The killings that Habré is charged with include massacres against ethnic groups in southern Chad (1984), against the Had- jerai ethnic group (1987), and against the Zagha- wa ethnic group (1989). Despite this display of force, Habré’s government remained weak, and was frequently opposed by the Zaghawa ethnic group. In response, the Habré regime periodically conducted ethnic cleansing campaigns against ethnic Chadian groups, such as the Zaghawa.


Habré was overthrown in 1990, after which he fled to Senegal where he remained in exile. He was placed under house arrest in 2005. Al- though Habré was indicted in Senegalese courts in 2000, the previous Senegalese President, Ab- doulaye Wade, continually delayed the execution of Habré’s sentence. After four separate requests for extradition, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on July 20, 2012 that Senegal must try Habré or extradite him to Belgium for trial. The ICJ’s binding order was premised upon Senegal’s inaction to prosecute Habré.


On August 22, 2012, Senegal and the African Union agreed to create a special criminal tribu- nal known as the Extraordinary African Cham- bers (Chambers) to try Habré. The Chambers are structured to address each element of Habré’s alleged crimes: Article 5 details genocide; Ar- ticle 6 details crimes against humanity; Article 7 details war crimes; and Article 8 details torture. The Senegalese National Assembly formally es- tablished the Chambers on December 19, 2012. In 2013, Senegalese officials formally arrested and charged Habré with war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity. Thus far, 1,015 victims have registered as civil parties with the Cham- bers.


ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 1 » October 2013


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