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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid