No reparations yet for victims of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré five years after African Union-backed ruling

Five years after the historic judgment in Senegal against the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, victims of his brutal regime have received nothing from the $150 million court-ordered reparations, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Human Rights Watch, said on May 30.

In a joint statement entitled, “Chad, the African Union and the International Community Must Not Abandon Hissène Habré’s Victims Now”, the organizations noted that the African Union-backed Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), supported by the African Union and the international community, on May 30, 2016, convicted Habré of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual slavery, and sentenced him to life in prison.

He was the first former head of state to be tried and found guilty of human rights crimes in the national courts of another state.

The conviction was confirmed on appeal in 2017 and together 7,396 victims were awarded reparations for the crimes they suffered during Habré’s 8-year rule in Chad.

Yet, five years after the ruling, an African Union Trust Fund that was mandated by the Chambers to trace, freeze, and seize Habré’s assets to administer reparations has not yet become operational.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, who is from Chad, in February 2020 promised “in the near future, to convene a Resource Mobilization Conference to maintain this Fund” but nothing has been done.

“Efforts on the domestic level have also stalled: the Chadian government and Habré-era security agents have yet to pay $139 million in reparations ordered by a Chadian court in 2015 when it convicted 20 Habré-era security agents on murder and torture charges. In August 2017, a team of United Nations experts expressed their concern over the government’s failure to carry out reparations,” the organizations said, noting that Habré, who is accused of looting tens of millions of dollars from the Chadian treasury, has paid no damages himself.

They said recent unrest in Chad threatens to make justice for survivors in the form of reparations even more difficult to obtain in the future.

Since the death of President Idriss Déby Itno on April 20, 2021, who ended Habré’s rule in 1990 and had been in power since, the political context in Chad has been fragile, they said, calling on the international community to act and demand justice for the victims Habré’s regime.

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