Africa  

Witnesses end evidence in Hissene Habre’s trial

habre_afp_1987THE testimony phase has ended in the on-going trial of former Chadian president, Hissene Habre during which witness gave account of the inhuman treatment a lot of Chadians went through under the former dictator.

Habre, who ruled from 1982-1990 and is currently in a Senegalese jail, is accused in the deaths of thousands of people. He is on trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture by the Extraordinary African Chambers, established by Senegal and the African Union.

AP quoted Human Rights Watch describing the trial as the first in Africa to rely on “universal jurisdiction,” in which a country’s national courts can prosecute the most serious crimes committed abroad, by a foreigner and against foreigners.

For the nearly 4,500 victims who have filed suits against Habre, the trial itself has represented a form of justice. “I am very satisfied. Since I gave my testimony, I feel cleared, I feel lighter because I was able to speak out to Habre after he haunted me for 25 years,” said Clement Abaifouta, the president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of the Hissene Habre Regime. “No one could imagine that Habre, who was once so powerful, would come to listen to all of his victims.”

Habre, who came to court wearing a white turban rejected the tribunal’s authority and remained silent when questioned by the prosecution. His lawyers described the case as political and did not appear at the beginning of the trial in July. The court then appointed three Senegalese lawyers who were given time to prepare.

A total of 98 witnesses have testified, according to Human Rights Watch, including former members of Habre’s police force, the judge in Belgium who carried out an extensive investigation into a complaint filed against Habre there, forensic experts and others who spoke about their experiences in prisons.

Kaltouma Deffalah took the stand and described being in the desert camp at Oudi-Doum, where nine women and girls were allegedly forced to serve the soldiers of Habre’s army. While testifying, she proclaimed she was proud and felt strong being in court, able to tell her story while Habre sat silent.

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