Hissène Habré appeal: Amnesty spokespeople available
‘The trial of Hissène Habré last year was the result of a tireless battle by thousands of victims and their relatives’ - Gaëtan Mootoo
The appeal hearing of former Chadian president Hissène Habré against his conviction for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture opens on Monday 9 January, and Amnesty International will have expert spokespeople available to comment on the significance of the case.
Habré was found guilty by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Dakar, Senegal on 30 May 2016, and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was the first universal jurisdiction case on the continent, and the first conviction of a former head of state by an African court for crimes against humanity.
The Extraordinary African Chambers was created in 2012 by an agreement between the African Union and the Senegalese government of Senegal, and Habré’s trial opened on 20 July 2015, with 69 victims, 23 witnesses and ten expert witnesses testifying during the proceedings. Alongside other evidence, the prosecution relied on research carried out by Amnesty in the 1980s and a former Amnesty staff member also testified during the trial as an expert witness.
In next week’s hearing - which marks the final stage of proceedings in the landmark case - Habré‘s defence lawyers are appealing against the verdict on the basis of what they consider to be several errors of fact and law (see below).
The court will also hear an appeal regarding reparations awarded to victims on 29 July 2016, as it has been claimed by civil parties that errors were made when establishing eligibility criteria and when putting in place measures to ensure that the reparations were implemented effectively and fairly. If the reparations decision is upheld on appeal, Amnesty is urging the EAC, the African Union, the government of Chad and the international community to ensure that sufficient resources are raised and allocated to a Trust Fund from which the reparations can be drawn quickly and effectively.
The judgement on appeal is expected to be issued by 30 April at the latest, when the mandate of the EAC ends.
Amnesty International’s Researcher on West Africa Gaëtan Mootoo said:
“The trial of Hissène Habré last year was the result of a tireless battle by thousands of victims and their relatives to ensure justice for crimes under international law committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990. It gave hope to others around the world that it is possible to end impunity even where it is most entrenched.”
Hissène Habré‘s defence lawyers argue, amongst other things, that the defence did not see the full written judgement until after the date on which it was required to file its appeal, and that other factual and legal errors were made by the trial chamber, including in relation to who was responsible for armed forces at the time of certain massacres taking place. They also argue that the lack of cooperation by Chad with respect to other alleged perpetrators impacted on the fairness of the proceedings against Habré.
Catalyst for other cases
Hissène Habré‘s case prompted the Chadian authorities to finally investigate alleged crimes and prosecute other suspects. This resulted in convictions in March 2015 of 20 Habré-era security agents on charges of murder, torture, kidnapping and arbitrary detention. Amnesty is urging Chad, and potentially other countries, to investigate and prosecute others accused of committing serious human rights violations between 1982 and 1990, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. In particular, Chad should investigate mass killings that were committed in September 1984 in the south of the country.