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.
    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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.