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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora