After an unprecedented trial, the former president of Chad has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by a court in Senegal.
NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that former President Hissène Habré ruled for eight years until 1990.
Ofeibea filed this report for our Newscast unit:
“Former President Hissène Habré’s trial on war crimes charges has been a landmark for international justice — the first time in the world the courts of one country have prosecuted a former leader of another on human rights charges.
“It’s also the first time one African nation — Senegal — has tried the former ruler of another — Chad — for charges including political killings, rape and torture.
“Reed Brody, of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, says the verdict sends a powerful message that the days are over when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasure and escape abroad to live in luxury.
“Brody has worked for 17 years with alleged survivors of atrocities Habré is said to have ordered and endorsed.”
Back in December, Ofeibea reported on the trial. Dozens of witnesses took the stand at the Extraordinary African Chambers. Women said they were “raped in custody.”
“One woman, Kadidja Hassan Zidane, testified in October that Habre, now 73, raped her four times in the presidential palace in the 1980s.
“Pressed for more details by the presiding judge, Zidane told the court, ‘President Habre would be waiting for me in a room. Two times I resisted. Once I simply didn’t have the strength. The fourth time, I resisted and he jabbed me in my private parts with a ballpoint pen.'”
Among other crimes, the court found Habré guilty of raping Zidane.
Human Rights Watch, which was at the court house when the verdict was read, also spoke to Souleymane Guengueng, another one of Habré’s victims.
“I have been waiting for this day since I walked out of prison more than 25 years ago,” she told Human Rights Watch. “Today I feel ten times bigger than Hissène Habré.”