Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by prison guards into the courtroom for the first proceedings of his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar on July 20, 2015. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)
By Sarah Milburn and Gladys Melo-Pinzon
Something remarkable began in Senegal on Monday a week ago. An African court in one country is trying the former head of state of another country, bringing badly-needed support to the continent’s formal human rights commitments and to the principle that no one – not even heads of state – should be above the law. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
For more than 10 years, victims of former Chadian president Hissène Habré have been waiting for justice. Since he was chased from power in 1990, Habré has been living in Senegal, where, despite being charged by the Dakar regional court in 2000 for crimes against humanity, acts of torture and acts of barbarism, he continues to enjoy impunity for his crimes.
Habré’s role in the violation of human rights in Chad has been well documented. In 1992, a Truth Commission Report concluded that 40,000 political murders and 200,000 cases of torture occurred in Chad while Habré was president. And in 2005, Habré was indicted by a Belgian court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.
While Senegal has taken some very positive steps towards ensuring Habré will face trial, such as arresting him in 2005 and subsequently reforming its laws to remove any legal obstacles to his trial, the fact that his trial still hasn’t begun is unacceptable. Every month, new victims, or relatives of victims, die without having seen Habré brought to trial. But Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade keeps making excuses, claiming a lack of funds to start the trial and demanding that the international community finance the trial before it can start. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Chad’s government seems to have misplaced its copy of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was recently charged with the crime of genocide by the ICC, just spent the last two days in Chad, without the Chadian government lifting a finger to respect its obligations under the Rome Statute.
Chad ratified the Rome Statute in November 2006 – which means they have an obligation to arrest and surrender to the Court individuals like Al Bashir who have had warrants issued for their arrest by the ICC. But Chad’s government went as far as stating that, no, they did not have an obligation to arrest Al Bashir.
Presumably, Al Bashir was in Chad to discuss the agreement Sudan and Chad signed in January 2010 to normalize their relations while armed insurgencies continue to devastate eastern Chad and western Sudan. Chadian President Idriss Déby had gone to Khartoum in February to meet with Al Bashir, and several weeks later the two governments started to deploy a jointly-commanded military force along the border. But as we noted in our most recent report on Chad, fighting continues to erupt between the Chadian National Army and armed opposition groups. The situation across the border in Darfur remains extremely volatile, especially with the arrival of more than 1,000 new refugees in Chad in May 2010.
Between this refusal to arrest Al Bashir while he was in Chad and the government’s insistence that the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad, MINURCAT, withdraw before the end of the year, human rights are being threatened.
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