Posted by News Express | 30 May 2016 | 3,057 times
An African court on Monday sentenced former Chadian President Hissene Habre to life in prison for crimes against humanity in a landmark case that rights groups say could open the door for more war crimes convictions on the continent.
Habre was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery and ordering the killings of 40,000 people during his rule between 1982 and 1990. He denied the accusations in the 11-month trial and refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court.
The decision makes Habre the first African former head of state to be convicted on the continent, according to Human Rights Watch.
“This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalise their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end,” tweeted a Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, who was inside the courthouse in Dakar, Senegal, where Habre was tried. Habre attended Monday's hearing wearing a turban and sunglasses.
The Extraordinary African Chambers was set up in Dakar, with the backing of the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for war crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990 when Habre was President.
A Senegalese judge first indicted Habre in 2000, but the case stalled several times over the years. It wasn't until 2012 that progress was made on the trial when Macky Sall became Senegal’s President, and the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habre or extradite him.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Monday’s verdict. “This ruling is a landmark in the global fight against impunity for atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Kerry said in a statement.
Amnesty International also praised the verdict as “a victory for those victims who fought tirelessly to ensure Hissene Habre could not get away with crimes under international law.”
“This landmark decision should also provide impetus to the African Union or individual African states to replicate such efforts to deliver justice to victims in other countries in the continent,” said Gaetan Mootoo, an Amnesty International West Africa researcher.
The trial against Habre opened in Senegal in July 2015, and 69 victims, 23 witnesses and 10 expert witnesses testified during the proceedings, Amnesty said, adding that the case “sets a new benchmark for efforts to end impunity in Africa.”
Habre’s attorneys refused to appear at the opening of the trial because they considered the court to be illegitimate. The court appointed three Senegalese lawyers to defend him, and after a brief adjournment, Habre was brought back in to court by force to be tried. (CNN)
•Photo shows convicted former Chadian President Hissene Habre.
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