The former Chad’s ruler Hissene Habre has been sentenced to life in prison after being
convicted of crimes against humanity by the court in Senegal. In a historic trial, which saw the former Chadian leader convicted of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings of opponents and enemies during his rule from 1982 to 1990, the verdict sends a strong signal to other African brutal dictators, who are yet to face justice.
The bold verdict sent a thunderous jubilation in the courtroom, filled by victims and families of those allegedly killed by the ex-President of Chad, whom some have called the “Africa’s Pinochet,” due to his ruthless and brutal reign of terror while in the office. Tales of Habre`s gruesome atrocities include systematic torture, mostly carried out by his feared secret police still send fearful waves around opponents. It is, therefore, not a coincidence that his conviction after more than 17 years` legal battle, is welcomed by many ““ especially Africans – as a priceless legal victory as well as a precedent for other African dictators.
The ex-president Hissene Habre who seized power in 1982 allegedly with the help of the CIA refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court and strongly denied the charges against him, including murder of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990. He was given 15 days to appeal the verdict.
Interestingly, unlike the ICC (International Criminal Court) verdicts, the court in Senegal, which convicted Hissene Habre was backed by the African Union – the first time a court was backed by the organisation to try a former ruler for human rights abuses.
Many Africans have pushed for a permanent African Court of Justice in Africa to try leaders who have committed atrocities and impunities. Supporters of such an African Court argue that The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) is a puppet of the West. The ICC, they argue are funded and controlled by the West; hence the court is set to victimise or target mainly Africans, they alleged. However, others are critical of the so called African Court, which tried ex-President Habre, on the ground that the court, backed by the African Union (AU) though, was equally under Western influence, having in mind that the court had been partly funded by the European Union and US.
Regardless who funded the court, the one thing the survivors of Habre’s murderous regime seem to care about at this moment is that the perpetrator of the heinous crime is eventually caught by the web of the same law he once ingloriously ignored.