Chad’s torture victims seek justice in trial of Hissene Habre

Ginette Bganbaye awoke in a dingy cell known as La Piscine after Chad’s secret police arrested her for alleged involvement in coup plotting.

“Two police pushed me into a room, they held me down and connected electricity wires all over my body,” said Bganbaye, who was 20 and pregnant at the time and bears deep scars on her chest that she said were the result of torture. “I fainted,” she said in an interview in N’Djamena, the capital.

Bganbaye entered the colonial-era swimming pool converted into a prison in March 1985 and remained there for seven months, giving birth to a baby girl. Today she’s one of almost 9 000 Chadians who have campaigned for justice for their brutal treatment under former President Hissene Habre since he was deposed by rebels in 1990. On Monday, Habre will face charges including torture and crimes against humanity, by a court in Senegal in the first trial of an African leader outside his nation by a special African court.

Habre, who ruled oil-producer Chad for eight years, has been accused of causing the deaths of more than 40 000 people by a national truth commission set up by the government of his successor, President Idriss Deby. He denies the charges. The tribunal in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, operates under an African Union mandate. Habre (72) spent more than two decades in exile in Senegal before being arrested in 2013.

Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, president of the trial chamber, and two senior Senegalese judges will hear the case.

Senegal’s Parliament
“The Habre trial shows that it is possible for victims, with perseverance and resolve, to bring a dictator to court,” Reed Brody, a lawyer at New York-based Human Rights Watch who’s been campaigning for Habre to be brought to justice since 1999, said in an e-mail on July 13. “Justice has finally caught up with Habre.”

Senegal’s Parliament approved a law establishing the tribunal in 2013 following the election of President Macky Sall. Before Sall assumed office, the country turned down requests for extradition by a Belgian judge who indicted Habre in 2005.

“It’s a great relief to see the Habre case finally find a home, after the many thwarted attempts to bring Habre to justice,” Nicole Barrett, director of Vancouver-based Joint International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, said by e-mail.

Chad has taken steps to prosecute abuses that occurred under Habre’s government, according to Human Rights Watch. In March, a court convicted 20 former senior officials of Habre’s political police for crimes including arbitrary arrest, torture and murder.

‘Big satisfaction’
While Chad is sub-Saharan Africa’s seventh-biggest oil producer, it ranks 184th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index and 73rd out of 78 on the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index. Transparency International classified it 154th among the 174 nations in its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Clement Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissene Habre, said in the group’s unlit N’Djamena office he was elated with the outcome.

“We didn’t expect this result but it gives us a big satisfaction,” he said of the March trial. The court ruled that some victims will receive compensation, he said.

The trial of Habre will be closely followed by his victims, Abaifouta said.

“Through this court battle I wish for a new Chad,” he said. “Not oppressive. Without killing, without stealing or violence.” – Bloomberg

Advertisting

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour
Advertising

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.