No redress for ex-dictator’s victims in Chad: African Commission should press for Habré-era reparations
The Chadian government has yet to provide reparations ordered by a court in 2015 to 7,000 victims of grave crimes under the rule of former dictator Hissène Habré, four human rights groups said today.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is currently reviewing Chad’s human rights record in Banjul, Gambia, should press the Chadian government to fulfill its obligations to Habré’s victims.
“It’s been four years since the court ordered reparations for Habré’s victims, yet the Chadian government hasn’t even begun to carry out the order,” said Jacqueline Moudeïna, lead lawyer for the victims and president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). “This is a slap in the face to the victims and an affront to the rule of law.”
On March 25, 2015, a Chadian criminal court convicted 20 Habré-era security agents on charges of murder, torture, kidnapping, and arbitrary detention. The court also awarded 75 billion CFA francs (approximately US$140 million) in reparations to 7,000 victims, ordering the government to pay half and the convicted agents the other half.
Habré himself was convicted in 2016 of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual violence and rape, by a special court in Dakar, Senegal and sentenced to life in prison. An appellate court confirmed the conviction in April 2017, awarded 82 billion CFA francs ($153 million) to 7,396 named victims, and mandated an African Union Trust Fund to raise the money by searching for Habré’s assets and soliciting contributions.
Although the African Union has allocated $5 million to the Trust Fund for reparations, the fund has yet to become operational, 30 months after the Dakar verdict. The groups said that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should also press the African Union to speed up the Trust Fund so that the victims could begin to receive reparations.
“It’s unconscionable that the Chadian government is choosing to prolong the suffering of these victims, who have already gone through so much,” said Rupert Skilbeck, director of REDRESS. “The Chadian government should do the right thing and provide the victims with the reparations that are owed to them without delay, as ordered by the courts.”
During the landmark 2015 trial in Chad, about 50 victims described their torture and ill-treatment at the hands of agents of the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), Habré’s notorious political police. Among those the Chadian court sentenced to life in prison were Saleh Younous, former head of the DDS, and Mahamat Djibrine, described as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad” by a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission. Many of those convicted, including Younous and Djibrine, have apparently since been released without official explanation.
The Chadian court had ordered the government to create a commission to oversee the payment of compensation. But the commission has not been created. The court also ordered the government to erect a monument “in not more than one year” to honor those killed under Habré and to create a museum in the former DDS headquarters, where detainees were tortured. Neither of these projects has been started.
“The Chadian government needs to implement the court’s decision so that the victims at long last can receive reparations for what they suffered and so that steps are taken to remember what happened to us,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH), who as a prisoner under Habré was forced to dig graves for many of his fellow inmates. “We fought for decades for that decision and now the government is making us fight again to get the decision enforced.”
Habré’s one-party rule from 1982-1990 was marked by widespread atrocities, including targeting certain ethnic groups. DDS files recovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001 reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention and 12,321 victims of human rights violations. Habré was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, and fled to Senegal. His victims fought for decades to bring Habré and his associates to trial. In 2012, Senegal agreed on a plan to create the Extraordinary African Chambers to conduct Habré’s trial within the Senegalese judicial system.
“Habré’s victims fought relentlessly for 25 years to bring the dictator and his henchmen to justice, and were awarded millions of dollars, but they haven’t seen one penny in reparations,” said Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims since 1999. “Many of the victims who scored these historic victories are in dire straits and in desperate need.”
Survivors filed the charges leading to the Chadian trial of Habré’s agents in 2000, but the case languished until after Habré himself was arrested in Dakar in 2013. Many of the accused held key positions in the Déby administration until they were arrested in 2013 and 2014.
In November 2017, Moudeïna and other victims’ lawyers submitted a complaint regarding Chad’s failure to implement the 2015 reparation award to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, where it is pending. In August 2017, a team of United Nations experts expressed their concern over the government’s failure to carry out reparations.