Time to act on Habre-era reparations and mend the harm to victims in Chad

More than a quarter of a century after the ex-Chadian dictator, Hissène Habré, committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual violence and rape, for which he was convicted on 30 May 2016; the Appeals Chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) confirmed his sentence as life imprisonment.

The Appeals Chamber also decided today on an appeal by lawyers representing victims on the reparations awarded to victims on 29 July 2016. In their appeal, the victims’ lawyers had challenged the amounts afforded for compensation, which fell short of what the civil parties had requested.

The victims’ lawyers had also argued that the reparations order limited the number of victims entitled to reparations and did not set out how the reparations order should be implemented. Furthermore, they had argued that the order did not include the collective reparations requested by victims, including demands to build a memorial.

The Appeals Chamber partially upheld the reparations decision on appeal. The Appeals Chamber today declined to order collective reparations and limited the ordered reparations to financial compensation similar to the July verdict. Furthermore, it upheld the first instance decision to limit the number of civil parties admitted to the case.

However, the Appeals Chamber quantified the overall harm deriving from Habré’s criminal responsibility at 82,290 billion CFA francs (£111.060 billion). Furthermore, it opened the possibility for victims that had not participated in the proceedings to apply for reparations before the Trust Fund.

The Appeals Chamber instructed the Trust Fund to implement the reparations order and did not rule out that collective and moral reparations could be implemented in the future.

The Appeals Chamber noted that Habré’s assets that were seized so far are not enough to fund the reparations ordered. Hence, it invited the Trust Fund to monitor Habré’s financial situation and called on the Trust Fund to seek the collaboration of external stakeholders including states to ensure that it has the necessary funds to order reparations.

REDRESS, which has provided technical assistance to lawyers representing victims during the reparations phase of this case, submitted an amicus brief on reparations to the Appeals Chamber. [1]

Our submission discussed the role of the EAC in providing full and effective reparations to victims in line with international standards on reparations. REDRESS also recommended that given the provisions of the EAC Statute and international standards, the beneficiaries of reparations should not be limited to the civil parties in the case, but should extend to anyone meeting the definition of victims under the EAC Statute.

Furthermore, REDRESS noted that in light of the gravity of the crimes committed and the number of victims involved in the proceedings, financial compensation alone was not sufficient to provide meaningful reparation.

REDRESS submitted that the Appeals Chamber should provide guidance to the Trust Fund for Victims, from which it is likely that reparations will be drawn, to ensure that victims receive the reparation they are entitled to.

The Trust Fund, which was endorsed by the African Union in July 2016, can receive voluntary contributions by foreign governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations.

“Today’s judgment has helped to reduce some of the uncertainty that many victims felt after the trial, but a key concern for victims remains: how the reparations are to be put into effect, including how they will be funded,” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS.

“Habré is believed to have fled power with several millions of dollars, but so far, less than one million dollars’ worth of assets belonging to him have been seized, including a house in Dakar and two small accounts,” added Ferstman.

“We are calling on the EAC, the African Union, the governments of Chad and Senegal and the international community to step up their efforts to locate and recover any assets that Habré may have left that can be used to provide reparations to victims,” said Ferstman. “Habré’s victims fought for more than 25 years to see him convicted. To make victims fight again to have the decision on reparations enforced would be a slap in the face of these victims who have suffered already so much and for so long,” said Ferstman.

A previous order on reparation from a Chadian criminal court, which awarded about USD124 million (£92.5 million) in reparations to 7,000 of Habré victims, has also yet to be implemented. The Chadian government and 20 Habré-era security agents convicted of murder, torture, kidnapping and arbitrary detention were ordered to jointly pay for the reparations award.

“Reparations already ordered in Chad as well as by the Extraordinary African Chambers need to be implemented promptly. We call on the EAC, the African Union, the governments of Chad and Senegal and the international community to meet their international obligations to victims and to ensure that enough resources are raised and allocated to the Trust Fund that will be used for reparations,” said Ferstman.

For more information, please contact Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS, on [email protected] or +44 (0)20 7793 1777.

Notes to editors

A 1992 Chadian Commission of Inquiry accused Hissène Habré’s government of systematic torture and estimated that 40,000 people died during his rule (1982-1990) in Chad. Habré’s dictatorship was marked by widespread atrocities, including systematic torture, widespread political killings, thousands of arbitrary arrests, sexual slavery and the targeting of the civilian population, including specific ethnic groups.

To this day many families still do not know where their loved ones were buried and survivors are still living with permanent physical and psychological reminders of their ordeal. It is estimated that Habré’s brutal regime left 80,000 orphans, more than 30,000 widows and more than 200,000 people without moral or material support.(2)

In February 2013, the EAC was inaugurated in Dakar, Senegal, where Habré had been living after being ousted from power in 1990. The trial against him was the first trial in the world in which the courts of one country successfully prosecuted the former head of state of another country and was the first universal jurisdiction case to proceed to trial in Africa.


1 REDRESS’ submission on reparations from 8 February 2017 is available here:

2 Les crimes et détournements de l’ex-Président Habré et de ses complices, Rapport de la Commission d’Enquête Nationale du Ministère tchadien de la Justice, Éditions L’Harmattan, 1993, p. 97.