Chad’s former President sentenced to life in prison over crimes against humanity
A special court in Senegal sentenced former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre to life in prison on Monday for war crimes, crimes against humanity and a lot of other charges, including rape.
The verdict brings a long-awaited reckoning to relatives of the up to 40,000 people killed and many more kidnapped, raped or tortured under his 1982-1990 rule as president of Chad.
Habre was guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, rape, forced slavery, and kidnapping, said the president of the court Gberdao Gustave Kam, sentencing him to life in jail. His time would be served in a yet to be determined location.
Habre raised his arms into the air on hearing the verdict, shouting “Down with France-afrique!” referring to the term used for France’s continuing influence on its former colonies.
The former leader has 15 days to appeal the sentence.
Victims groups who had travelled to Dakar to hear the verdict were visibly moved by a judgement that comes a quarter century after the abuses they suffered.
“The feeling is one of complete satisfaction,” said Clement Abeifouta, president of a Habre survivors association.
“It’s the crowning achievement of a long and hard fight against impunity. Today Africa has won. We say thank you to Senegal and to Africa for judging Africa,” he added.
The case was heard by the CAE special tribunal set up by the African Union under a deal with Senegal, and is the first time a country has prosecuted a former leader of another nation for rights abuses.
In the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, up to 250 victims and their supporters gathered to watch the trial on television at their group’s headquarters.
Women screamed with joy as the verdict was read out, embracing one another and shouting “We won!”, before taking to the streets and blocking traffic as they spread the news.
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