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African Court Sentences Former Chadian Military Dictator to Life in Prison African Court Sentences Former Chadian Military Dictator to Life in Prison
by Ovi Magazine Guest
2016-06-11 12:04:46
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African Court Sentences Former Chadian Military Dictator to Life in Prison
By Amando Flavio & AnonHQ.com

An African Union-backed court in Senegal has sentenced the former strongman of the Republic of Chad, Hissene Habre, to life in prison.

The court convicted Habre of crimes against humanity, torture and sexual slavery. Habre is said to have committed all these heinous crimes during his regime.

Chad is a former French colony in Central Africa. Even though independence was granted to the country by the French in 1960, France has a considerable economic interest in the nation. The business elites in the United States also joined the ‘party’ to exploit the country’s resources, which included petroleum, gold, sodium carbonate and cotton, among others.

Due to the resources, the Americans and the French have set the country’s citizens at odds with each other, completely destabilizing the country. Just after independence, the country became synonymous with rebels’ violence, with the Americans and the French arming their factions. This has made the country impoverished.  The United Nations Human Development Index ranks Chad as the seventh poorest country in the world, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line.

afr01_400_02It was out of this chaos that Habre led a rebel force to seize power in 1982. Both the American and the French governments supported him in his brutal seizure of power. In return, he also granted his sponsors free range to operate in the mining and the petroleum sectors of the country.

However, the relationship between Habre and his sponsors later deteriorated. The sponsors shifted their support to another rebel movement, and in 1990, after spending eight years in power, Habre was overthrown by the armed rebel movement led by the current president, Idriss Déby.

Habre fled the country, later seeking political asylum in Senegal, which was granted to him. In 2005, he was put under house arrest. This was after a domestic Chadian commission of inquiry claimed that as many as 40,000 people were killed and another 200,000 subjected to torture, under his reign. Human rights groups who followed the inquiry also confirmed the atrocities he committed during his stay in power. Human Rights Watch even referred to him as “Africa’s Pinochet,” comparing him to the former brutal dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet.

After intense pressure from rights groups, and with the backing of the African Union, Habre was officially arrested in 2013. The special court known as the Extraordinary African Chambers was created in Senegal to trial him. The African Union refused to hand him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), because of the growing resentment in Africa that the ICC is unfairly targeting African leaders.

“Hissene Habre, this court finds you guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, forced slavery, and kidnapping. The court condemns you to life in prison,” the president of the court Gberdao Gustave Kam announced Habre’s sentence.

Mr Kam also added that Habre has 15 working days to appeal against the sentence. But on hearing the verdict, Habre raised his arms in the air, shouting “down with France-afrique!” referring to the term used for France’s continuing influence on its former colonies. It is believed the European Union and the United States supported the creation of the court to prosecute Habre. Since the trial began, Habre has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court. He was even physically dragged into the courtroom in July.

Victims who survived his brutalities, travelled to Senegal to witness the sentence. Many were moved with emotions as they broke down crying, remembering the suffering they went through.

Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, who has spent the last 15 years working with victims to bring Habre to justice, said the landmark case could encourage others to bring similar action.

“The trial of Hissene Habre shows that it is possible for victims, with tenacity and perseverance, to bring their dictator to court. We hope that other survivors, other activists will be inspired by what Habre’s victims have been able to do,” Reed told the French news agency AFP in an interview.

 


    
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