Chad’s ex-ruler Hissene Habre has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison at his war crimes trial in Senegal. The judge also convicted him of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings. It was the first time an African Union-backed court has tried a former ruler for human rights abuses.
The prosecutor at the court in Senegal’s capital Dakar requested a life sentence for Habre, who refused to recognise its legitimacy.
The ex-president denied accusations that he ordered the killing of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990.
Mr Habre frequently disrupted proceedings during his trial. He shouted abuse, called the process “a farce”, and had to be carried into the court after refusing to appear.
His critics dubbed him “Africa’s Pinochet” because of the atrocities allegedly committed during his rule. Habre was arrested in Senegal, where he was exiled, in 2013. Many of his alleged victims campaigned for him to be tried, following his overthrow in 1990.
In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for his arrest, claiming universal jurisdiction but, after Senegal referred the issue to the African Union, the AU asked Senegal to try Mr Habre “on behalf of Africa”.In 2013, a court in Chad sentenced him to death in absentia for crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has welcomed the conviction of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Kerry says Habre’s conviction is “a landmark in the global fight against impunity for atrocities.”
Habre was sentenced to life imprisonment for being responsible for thousands of deaths and tortures in prisons during his rule from 1982 to 1990. A 1992 Chadian truth commission accused Habre’s government of systematic torture, saying 40,000 people died during his rule.
Kerry says the case provides an opportunity for the United States to reflect on and learn from its connection with past events in Chad.
He says that without the persistence of Habre’s accusers and their demand for justice, the former dictator might never have faced a court of law.