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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs