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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs