Chad’s Former President Convicted
Hissene Habre, the former president of Chad was recently found guilty of crimes against humanity, rape and torture, by a court in Senegal. He protested against his life sentence by hinting that his conviction was a French colonial plot.
The ex-president’s human rights abuses continued from 1982 till 1990, during which 40,000 people in Chad lost their lives. Torture and mass killings were common: the political police would crush any tribe considered to be a threat to his rule, paralysis was induced upon the victims and they were forced to put their mouth around the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle. However, even after the sentencing, the dictator showed no “regret” or “empathy”.
This judgment is a great achievement for African justice and a triumph for the victims who persistently pursued it with help from the Human Rights watch. The Extraordinary African Chambers (also referred to as the EAC) is the first court in Africa to convict an African leader following the doctrine of due process. It is also the first national court that convicted an ex-head of state for human rights violations, following the principle of universal jurisdiction.
International tribunals such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) instead of national courts usually try war crimes. However, the current decision has emerged as a light of hope for lawyers. The International Criminal Court is criticized by African governments and is accused of racism, which makes it unpopular in the African region. Moreover, there is reason to hope that African courts would try human rights abusers and ensure that fewer oppressors would escape justice. The former president of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, has also been tried in The Hague for abuses committed whereas; while his wife faced trial at home for organizing abuses.
However, Mrs. Gbagbo’s investigations had been accused of being irregular and incomplete. Furthermore, the ICC’s request for her extradition to Europe had been ignored. There has been a lack of accountability in the African continent while the African Union wants to offer immunity to heads of state.