The Campaign to Bring Hissène Habré to Justice - Phase I
Project location: SENEGAL, Chad
Project start date: January 2015 - Project end date: May 2015
Project number: 2014-060
Beneficiary: Human Rights Watch
Thanks to the support of the Nando Peretti Foundation, Human Rights Watch-as part of the International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissène Habré-has made significant advancements toward ensuring justice for victims of Chad's exiled former president, Hissène Habré. For more than 15 years, Human Rights Watch has been working with the victims to bring Habré and his accomplices to court. Habré is finally scheduled to be tried in July for the brutal crimes he is accused of committing against his own people.
Human Rights Watch is using NPF support to ensure that:
• There is strong support in Senegal for the case.
• The victims' rights and interests are represented at all stages of the proceedings.
• Habré is prosecuted for his most serious and representative crimes, and the strongest evidence is presented.
• African activists and victims maintain their role as leaders of the campaign.
• The trial is broadcast and accessible to the Chadian people.
• The trial is an occasion to seek broader justice for the victims and to advance the rule of law in Chad.
• The trial is a transformative moment for African justice.
Recent Activities and Results
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and its partners have been a critical force in the Habré case, keeping the case in the news, maintaining intense political pressure on Senegal and other international actors to provide the necessary resources to the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) set up to try Habré, and providing guidance and assistance to the EAC.
HRW also pushed for others involved in atrocities in Habré's regime to be brought to justice. 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 sentenced seven men to life in prison and acquitted four others. It also ordered the Chadian government and the convicted people to each pay half of the US$125 million in reparations to over 7,000 victims.
In addition, the court ordered that within a year the government erect a monument to those who were killed under Habré and that the former headquarters of Habré's political police, the Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS), be turned into a museum. These were among the long-standing demands of the victims' associations.
HRW is pushing for similarly definitive results in the Habré trial, with a strong focus on ensuring that victims' voices are heard and their interests are adequately defended. The statute for the EAC provides that victims can participate in the trial as civil parties, represented by legal counsel. On April 7-8 2015, with the support of the NPF, HRW organized a full strategy and coordination meeting of the legal team in Paris
HRW is also working to raise awareness about Habré's alleged crimes. In November 2014, , Spanish director Isabel Coixet went to Chad to shoot the short film Parler de Rose. The movie relates the life and death of Rose Lokissim, a detainee in a notorious Habré prison. Risking her life, Rose carefully noted the names of the prisoners who were tortured and executed in order to secretly inform their families. In the report of Rose's last interrogation in 1986, found 15 years ago by HRW, Rose's questioners wrote that Rose didn't care what happened to her. Even if they killed her, she said, "Chad will thank her and history will talk about her." Her captors recommended that "the authorities punish her severely." Rose was executed the same day. According to the report, however, Rose
The film was released in May. With NPF support, HRW held two avant-premiers, in N'Djaména and in Paris and an opening in Madrid. The showings were well attended and the film enthusiastically received, particularly in Chad, where HRW distributed hundreds of DVDs. The showings generated coverage on Radio France International, the BBC and le Monde.
HRW pushed for an experienced international judge to preside over Habré's trial to ensure it is fair, credible, and efficient. HRW was pleased that in April 2015 Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, a former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was appointed president of the EAC.
The intense campaigning over the years has raised the profile of Habré and his crimes in Senegal. In addition to the ongoing media and public campaign, HRW plans to organize public conferences and some high-profile visits of support to Senegal from international figures such as Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge; and Louise Arbour, prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Very few victims will be able to attend the trial in Dakar, so HRW is developing innovative methods of communication and coordination to ensure representation of the thousands of Chadian victims. HRW and its partners will organize a public roundtable in which experts will share lessons learned from other experiences with victims of mass crimes; 10 regional forums around Chad to provide information for victims; regular briefings and training for the victims; and a register with information relating to each victim.
HRW has arranged for two of the victims' leaders, Souleymane Guengueng, who founded the first victims' association in 1991, and Clément Abaifouta, who now heads the association, to be at the entire trial. They will accompany 20 of Habré's victims who will come to Dakar for two-week periods during the trial.
The statute of the EAC provides for all proceedings to be filmed and recorded for broadcast. The EAC's outreach program in Chad and Senegal is being led by a consortium we helped bring together. The consortium's activities in both countries include production of TV and radio programs and short spots, holding public debates, and training journalists, as well as meetings with the victims in Chad.
In addition, HRW and its partners have trained a core of Chadian and Senegalese journalists who understand the case and its background and can provide accurate reporting. The journalists will travel to Chad to report on the case before and during the trial.
HRW and its partners are working to ensure the strongest evidence of Habré's alleged crimes will be presented to the EAC, his alleged responsibility will be clearly outlined, the verdict will be based on accepted facts, and the trial will show that an African court can deliver fair and impartial justice on behalf of African victims.
More information on the Habré case can be found here : http://www.hrw.org/tag/Hissene-Habre.