Victims of Chad’s ex-dictator denied reparations, rights groups say


A coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on Sunday called on Chad, the African Union, and the international community not to abandon the victims of former Chadian dictator and ensure that they receive the reparations for the crimes they suffered.

Five years after the historic judgment against Hissène Habré, his victims have not received a cent of reparations ordered by the African Union-backed Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal on May 30, 2016.

The EAC, supported by the African Union and the international community, convicted Habré in the first universal jurisdiction case to proceed to trial in Africa.

Habré was the first former head of state to be tried and found guilty of human rights crimes in the national courts of another state. He was convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual slavery, and sentenced to life in prison.

On appeal, the conviction was confirmed in 2017 and together 7,396 victims were awarded reparations for the crimes they suffered during Habré’s 8-year rule.

An African Union Trust Fund that was mandated by the Chambers to trace, freeze, and seize Habré’s assets and chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in February 2020 promised “in the near future, to convene a Resource Mobilisation Conference to maintain this Fund.”

But efforts on the domestic level have stalled: the Chadian government and Habré-era security agents have yet to pay US$139 million in reparations ordered by a Chadian court in 2015 when it convicted 20 Habré-era security agents on murder and torture charges.

In August 2017, a team of United Nations experts expressed their concern over the government’s failure to carry out reparations.

Habré, who is accused of looting tens of millions of dollars from the Chadian treasury, has paid no damages himself.

Recent unrest in Chad threatens to make justice for survivors in the form of reparations even more difficult to obtain in the future. Since the death of President Idriss DébyItno on April 20, 2021, who ended Habré’s rule in 1990 and had been in power since, the political context in Chad has been fragile.

Jacqueline Moudeina, the main lawyer for the victims of the Habré regime who represents more than 4,000 victims in this case, said: “Time is running out. We cannot wait years and years for these reparations. More than 100 victims have died since the decision of the EAC and will never see reparations. The Chadian government and the African Union must act now by making it imperative to include compensation for victims in their priority programs.”

The importance of reparations for victims of Habré cannot be understated. Reparations, comprising compensation, restitution, satisfaction, rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition are essential to redress the trauma and harm caused to survivors of Habré’s regime.

“I believe that the time has come to give survivors, who have lived through unimaginable horrors and who have shown incredible courage in their struggle for justice, the opportunity to rebuild their lives, even if it is not without difficulty,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of the HissèneHabré Regime (AVCRHH).

Abaifouta was forced to dig graves for many of his co-detainees when he himself was a prisoner under Habré’s regime. (Source: HRW)