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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid