AU court sentences Chad ex-ruler to life in prison

A court in Senegal convicted former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré of crimes against humanity committed during his rule from 1982 to 1990, and sentenced him to life imprisonment on May 30. He was found guilty of sex slavery, rape and the ordered killings of an estimated 40,000 people. The trial marks the first time a court with backing from the African Union has tried a former ruler for human rights violations, and also the first time a former African head of state was found guilty by an another African country. Habré has 15 days to appeal the sentence. Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, who initiated the trial, stated: "This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end. Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice."

Habré, who fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990, was indicted by the Extraordinary African Chambers in July 2013 and placed in pre-trial detention. More than 1,000 victims filed for civil party status, asking the Extraordinary African Chambers to officially recognize them as parties with an interest in the matter. The African Union began talks with Senegal to come up with a plan for Habré's trial after the International Court of Justice ruled in July 2012 that Senegal must either try Habré promptly or extradite him to Belgium for trial. Last September, the former leader was carried into court by masked security agents following his refusal to participate in his own trial. In March 2015, a criminal court in Chad sentenced Habré-era police officers to prison tor torture.

From Jurist, May 30. Used with permission.

  1. Senegal court upholds life sentence for former Chad leader

    The Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal upheld the life sentence of Chad's former dictator Hissene Habre for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture. Habre was sentenced to life in prison for rape, various war crimes, and torture last year; however, his counsel appealed, believing that his sentence was too severe. On appeal, the EAC overturned his conviction for rape, but nonetheless upheld his life sentence, finding that the punishment was not disproportionate to the crimes he remained convicted of. Judge Ougadeye Wafi also established a $135 million fund to compensate the victims of Habre. The funds will be supplied from the seizure of Habre's assets. Habre's conviction marks the first time in modern history that the court of one African country prosecuted and convicted the former leader of another African nation on rights charges. (Jurist, April 28)