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Rights groups: Conviction of Chadian dictator a major victory
May 31, 2016, 10:54 am

The African Union helped establish the Extraordinary African Chambers which convicted Habré [Xinhua]

The African Union helped establish the Extraordinary African Chambers which convicted Habré [Xinhua]

Human rights advocates and campaigners have lauded a special court’s conviction of a former African dictator on charges of crimes against humanity, and say this will pave the way to bring other abusers of power on the continent to justice.

The Extraordinary African Chambers court in the Senegalese Capital Dakar sentenced former Chadian President Hissène Habré to life in prison for murder, torture, rape and crimes against humanity committed during his 1982-1990 rule.

The conviction not only indicates that the African Union, which sponsored the special court, can bring its own leaders to account for crimes committed during their rule but also marks an unprecedented move to have a ruler of one country put on trial in another.

Often unruly and at times controversial, Habré refused to attend the court proceedings but was forcibly moved there by security officers. He maintained that he was innocent and the court illegitimate; his lawyers boycotted much of the trial.

It took some 26 years and the accounts of more than 60 of his victims giving often harrowing testimony of torture, sex slavery, and maiming to bring Habré to trial and conviction.

Forensic scientists and handwriting experts agreed that he personally signed many of the orders of torture and execution.

Investigators went through thousands of documents and hundreds of hours of interviews – some with members of Habré’s own secret police – and estimate that as many as 40,000 people may have been killed during his eight-year rule. They say another 200,000 may have been maimed, injured and left paralyzed.

Habré, who had come to power backed by the US and France as a buffer against the anti-Western Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, was himself deposed in a coup in 1990.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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