African Union: Use Summit to Press Senegal on Hissène Habré Trial / Two Years After AU Mandate, No Action on Former Chad Dictator
SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt, June 23, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ –– During its upcoming summit, the African Union should ask Senegal to explain why little progress has been made in the two years since it mandated Senegal to prosecute former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, six human rights organizations said today. The African Union is holding its bi-annual summit here on June 30 and July 1.
Habré is accused of massive crimes during his 1982-1990 rule before he fled to Senegal in 1990. On July 2, 2006, the African Union mandated Senegal to “prosecute and ensure that Hissène Habré is tried, on behalf of Africa, by a competent Senegalese court.” Senegal has yet to initiate a prosecution, however.
The African Union should ask Senegal for a road map for the investigation and trial of Habré, said a joint statement by the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH), the Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime (AVCRP), the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), Human Rights Watch, Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).
“Senegal has perfected the art of delay in this case. The African Union’s credibility is at stake,” said Alioune Tine of the Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO). “This is a test case for African justice. Africa can’t complain that international justice is picking on African leaders while it allows the Habré case to die a slow death in Senegal.”
In January 2008, at Senegal’s request, European Union experts visited Senegal to evaluate its financial and technical needs. The experts called on Senegal to define a prosecution strategy and set forth a precise calendar and a reasonable budget, none of which has been done. They also suggested that a Senegalese coordinator be named to handle the administrative and financial aspects of the case.
In April, the former coordinator of Habré’s legal team, Madické Niang, was named minister of justice of Senegal – a key position for the organization of the trial. In May, he announced the appointment of a coordinator for the trial as well as a “Follow-up and Communication Committee.” He also stated that a constitutional amendment would soon be adopted making clear that Senegalese courts may prosecute acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes perpetrated in the past. He also said judges would be named to investigate the case by June 7, but neither of these pledges has happened.
“The victims are tired of Senegal’s promises, it is time for the case to get moving,” said Souleymane Guengueng, founder of the Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime (AVCRP), who almost died during two years of mistreatment in Chadian Habré’s prisons. “The African Union needs to step in.”
The AU decision mandating Senegal to try Habré envisaged “provid[ing] Senegal with the necessary assistance for the effective conduct of the trial,” but it took 16 months for the African Union to name Robert Dossou, Benin’s former foreign minister and justice minister, as an envoy to the trial. His role is unclear, however, and the groups asked the African Union to define his mandate and to provide concrete assistance to Senegal.
“The African Union needs to ensure that its decision to try Hissène Habré is put into practice,” said Dobian Assingar, a Chadian activist with the FIDH.
In its May 2006 ruling in the case Guengueng v. Senegal, the UN Committee against Torture found that Senegal had violated the Convention against Torture twice, first by failing to prosecute Habré when the victims first filed their case in 2000, and then by failing to prosecute or extradite him when Belgium filed an extradition request in September 2005. The committee ruled that Senegal was obliged to prosecute or extradite Habré.
Hissène Habré ruled Chad from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990 by President Idriss Déby Itno and fled to Senegal. His one-party regime was marked by widespread atrocities, including waves of ethnic campaigns. Files of Habré’s political police, the DDS (Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité), which were discovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001, reveal the names of 1,208 persons who were killed or died in detention. A total of 12,321 victims of human rights violations were mentioned in the files.
Habré was first indicted in Senegal in 2000 before courts ruled that he could not be tried there. His victims then turned to Belgium and, after a four-year investigation, a Belgian judge in September 2005 charged Habré with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture.
Following a Belgian extradition request, Senegalese authorities arrested Habré in November 2005. The Senegalese government then asked the African Union to recommend how to try Habré. On July 2, 2006, the African Union, following the recommendation of a Committee of Eminent African Jurists, called on Senegal to prosecute Habré “in the name of Africa,” and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade declared that Dakar would do so.
This is a Joint News Release from:
Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime (AVCRP)
Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH)
African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO)
Human Rights Watch
SOURCE : Human Right Watch (HRW)