News / Africa

    Victims Tell of Torture Suffered Under Chad's Habre

    Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by military officers after being heard by a judge on Jul. 2, 2013 in Dakar, Senegal.
    Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by military officers after being heard by a judge on Jul. 2, 2013 in Dakar, Senegal.
    Anne Look
    Four Chadians and one Senegalese national, who say they were detained and tortured under ex-Chadian president Hissene Habre, are giving their depositions this week in Senegal before the Extraordinary African Chambers that charged Habre last month with crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes during his eight years in power.

    In Dakar, the former detainees held a press conference to tell their stories. 
     
    Younous Mahadjir rolled up his sleeve and pointed to scars encircling his left bicep. 
     
    "The torture did this," he said.  "They attached here and here.  It left open wounds.  I couldn't eat with my hands for two weeks.  I was nearly paralyzed. I had to lower my head and eat like an animal because if you didn't eat, you wouldn't live."
     
    Mahadjir was arrested in August 1990 and accused of distributing leaflets against the Habre regime.
     
    He suffered a brutal form of torture, known by the Arabic term arbatachar, that was used by the political police of ex-Chadian president Hissene Habre.  
     
    "They tortured me," he said. "They tied together your arms to your legs behind you and then made you drink water until you lost consciousness. They would ask you repeatedly: Who were your accomplices? They kept going until you could go no longer and the next day, it would start again." 
     
    Mahadjir was released when Habre was overthrown in a military coup in December 1990.  Habre fled to Senegal. 
     
    Mahadjir is one of 1,015 direct and indirect victims, meaning the living ex-detainees and relatives of those deceased, whose lawyers say filed on July 15 as civil parties in the case against Habre. 
     
    Habre was indicted in June by the Extraordinary African Chambers, the special tribunal set up by the African Union in Senegal and funded by the international community to try him. He is accused of overseeing thousands of political killings, summary executions of war prisoners, and widespread torture of detainees.
     
    A judge has ordered Habre held in prison in Dakar during pre-trial investigations which are expected to last 15 months.
     
    These legal proceedings in Senegal have been more than a decade in the making. Efforts to try Habre stalled out repeatedly over disputes over jurisdiction and issues such as getting international funding.
     
    The five victims who came to Dakar to give their depositions said Habre's arrest and indictment in June was "a comfort" and "a symbol." 
     
    Hadjo Amina Moctar was arrested when she was six months pregnant.  She had a miscarriage while being held in an electrified cell so crowded with men that she could not sit down most of the time.
     
    "I thank God that Hissene Habre was arrested," she said at the press conference. 
     
    Clement Abaifouta is a key witness in the case.  His job during his four years in prison was to bury deceased inmates, as many as a dozen per day. He was arrested in July 1985 as he prepared to go to Germany for university. 
     
    Visibly emotional, he said he wants answers from this trial.  
     
    "I lost four years and I saw the worst, the worst," he said. "Every day I was forced to bury other detainees who had died of mistreatment, lack of healthcare, torture and other inhumane things. I am here now to find out why exactly I was arrested because I can't understand why wanting to go study abroad meant that I had to suffer four years of non-existence because that's what it was.  During those four years, I did not exist." 
     
    Abaifouta was released in March 1989.  He had become so ill and malnourished during his detention that he could not walk for five months. 
     
    Habre's lawyers say their client's right to a presumption of innocence is being violated and that his arrest and indictment were the result of a biased and improper investigation.  
     
    Habre said he will not participate in a trial. 
     
    The lawyers working on behalf of the victims said that is regrettable and said they respect Habre's rights.
     
    Senegalese attorney Assane Dioma Ndiaye said "we want a fair and balanced trial.  The victims do not want a parody of a trial. We want the truth to come out and to do that, everything must take place in transparency and the respect for the rights of defense."

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

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

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora