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

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs