News / Africa

Historic Senegal Court Begins Habré Trial

The Extraordinary Chamber's newly appointed 10 Senegalese judges and four magistrates were announced at the official inauguration in Dakar, Senegal, February. 8, 2013. (J. Lazuta/VOA)
The Extraordinary Chamber's newly appointed 10 Senegalese judges and four magistrates were announced at the official inauguration in Dakar, Senegal, February. 8, 2013. (J. Lazuta/VOA)
Jennifer Lazuta
Senegal made history on Friday with the inauguration of a special court to try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch described the official opening of this landmark case as a “transformative moment in African justice.”

After years of stalling, the special tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers, finally became operational in Dakar. Ciré Ali Bâ, the appointed administrator of the court, announced the opening of the Extraordinary Chambers at Dakar’s Palace of Justice.

Bâ said the ceremony is to show the world that the tribunal has effectively been started. He said that the court will now seek to find the truth behind the actions that took place under the rule of Hissène Habré between 1982 and 1990.  

Human rights groups say it is about time.

Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)
x
Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)
Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, left, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2005 (file photo)
Habre’s eight-year rule in Chad came to an end more than 22 years ago in a military coup. It has been nearly 13 years since he was first indicted in Senegal for crimes against humanity.

Clement Abaifouta, who was imprisoned as a student under Habré's regime for nearly four years, came to Senegal for the beginning of the tribunal. He said he has been waiting  a long time for this day.

“This is a great day in my life. Up to 13 years, we were not moving," Abaifouta said. "He [Habré] came here in Senegal, but nothing moved. They [the Senegalese government] tried to do something, but it has not satisfied us [until now], because we have a goal. Our goal is to see Hissène Habré be judged for all he has done under his regime.”

Habré, who has been living under house arrest in Dakar since 1990, is accused of more than 40,000 political killings, systematic torture and human rights violations.

The African Union ordered Senegal to try Habré on Africa’s behalf in 2006, but little progress was made under the former government of Abdoulaye Wade.

It wasn’t until December 2012 that Senegal’s National Assembly finally ratified an agreement with the AU to create the Extraordinary Chambers.

Friday’s inauguration of the Extraordinary Chambers will allow judges to begin their pretrial investigations, which are expected to last 15 months.

Reed Brody is a lawyer for the New York-based Human Rights Watch who has been working with Habre’s victims since 1999. He said that while the inauguration marks a turning point in the case, there is still a long way to go.

“The victims have been fighting for the trial for 22 years," noted Brody. "Many of them who began the case have died. They’re all much older now than when they walked out of prison or when their relatives were killed. It’s now going to be another 15 long months [before the trial begins]. Hopefully Senegal can stick to that 15-month period and begin the trial while victims can still participate and take advantage of it.”

Brody said pretrial investigations 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 cases have all taken place under the jurisdiction of the international community, in a setting such as the Hague.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More