An African Union-backed court in Senegal has begun proceedings in the trial of former Chadian leader Hissène Habré, accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed during his eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990. The opening of the case in Dakar is an historic step for African justice, marking the first time that the courts of one country on the continent have prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.
The trial concludes a 15-year battle by victims and rights campaigners to bring the former strongman to justice in Senegal, where he fled after being toppled in a 1990 coup. Habre is blamed for widespread torture and the killing of up to 40,000 people while leading the central African nation.
The United States commends the Government of Senegal and the African Union for bringing the former Chadian president before the Extraordinary African Chambers of Senegal.As a signal of our support for these proceedings, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal James Zumwalt and Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Steven Rapp attended the opening of the trial on July 20.
This trial is an important step toward justice for the victims of atrocities committed under Habré’s rule, and should serve as yet another warning that, no matter their position, perpetrators of atrocities will be held accountable.
The United States supports a fair and impartial trial, and is committed to helping end impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.