News / Africa

Senegal, Chad Sign Agreement to Investigate Wartime Crimes

Former Chad dictator Hissène Habré, left,  seen as he leaves the court in Dakar, Senegal, Nov. 25, 2005.
Former Chad dictator Hissène Habré, left, seen as he leaves the court in Dakar, Senegal, Nov. 25, 2005.
TEXT SIZE - +
Jennifer Lazuta
— The justice ministers from Senegal and Chad have signed an agreement Friday that will allow Senegalese judges to carry out investigations in Chad on the alleged wartime crimes committed during the reign of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré. Human Rights Watch says this will “greatly facilitate” the work of the court and help move the long-delayed case forward.

Senegalese judges now have the ability to investigate the alleged wartime crimes of Hissène Habré within Chad, as part of the case being brought against him by a special tribunal in Dakar.

Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 until a 1990 military coup, is accused of more than 40,000 political killings, systematic torture and human rights violations. He has been living under house arrest in Dakar since 1990.

Reed Brody is a lawyer for the New York-based Human Rights Watch who has been working with Habre’s victims since 1999.

"Investigating and prosecuting crimes that happened 20 years ago in another country is a very complex task. And normally, judges from one country have to go through a very cumbersome task to collect evidence from another country. What this agreement does, is it basically allows the court to investigate in Chad, as if they were investigating in Senegal," he said.

Brody said the agreement also obliges the Chadian government to protect witnesses who testify both for and against Habré, and to hand over any documents the Senegalese judges may request.

Habré was first indicted in Senegal for crimes against humanity in the year 2000, but little progress was made under the former government of Abdoulaye Wade.

It was not until December 2012 that Senegal’s National Assembly finally ratified an agreement with the African Union to create a special tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers. The court became operational in Dakar in February and is now in the pre-trial investigation phase.

Human Rights Watch says thousands of documents of evidence, including a list with the names of more than 1,200 people who died while in detention, have already been collected by rights groups and the Belgium justice system over the years.

While these documents will be available for use during the trial, Brody said the Extraordinary Chamber’s investigating judges still need to be able to carry out their own work in Chad.

"It’s important for the integrity of the process that Senegalese judges see that evidence and weigh that evidence before them - the court that’s going to try Hissène Habré. And the judges are also looking for evidence that could exculpate Hissène Habré. So they need to look at witnesses who Hissène Habré wants to present," he said.

Brody said that with the signing of the agreement, judges can now travel to Chad themselves to speak with witnesses, visit former prisons and do whatever else is necessary to investigate the charges being brought against Habré.

He said pre-trial investigations are expected to last 15 months and will likely be followed by a seven-month trial and five-month appeals process.

This will be the first time the leader of one country is tried by the courts of another country. Previous trials have taken place either within their home country or under the jurisdiction of the international community, in a setting such as The Hague.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid