INITIAL PROCEEDINGS IN SENEGAL
On 26 January 2000, seven victims and one association (the AVCRP, Association of the Victims of Crimes and Political Repression in Chad) file a complaint against Habré before the regional tribunal of Dakar. The plaintiffs accuse Habré of torture and crimes against humanity for 97 political murders, 142 cases of torture, 100 enforced disappearances and 736 arbitrary arrests, most of them having been committed by the DDS.
On 3 February 2000, Habré was charged in Senegal with complicity in crimes against humanity, acts of torture and barbarity.
On 4 July 2000, upon appeal by Habré, the Court of Appeal of Dakar decided that Senegalese tribunals were not competent to judge acts of torture committed by a foreigner outside Senegal, regardless of the nationality of the victims. It cancelled the proceedings against Habré. This decision was confirmed by the Senegalese Court of Cassation on 20 March 2001.
On 27 September 2001, upon injunction of the Committee of the United Nations against Torture (CAT), the president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, accepted “not to expulse Habré and to take all necessary measures to prevent Habré from leaving Senegal otherwise than by virtue of an extradition procedure”. The idea was to prevent him from fleeing to a country where he will not be prosecuted.
PROCEEDINGS IN BELGIUM
Before the decision of the Senegalese Court of Cassation, on 30 November 2000, another group of victims filed a complaint in Belgium against Habré. The complaint came from 21 victims, three of them having obtained Belgian nationality after several years of residence there.
On 19 September 2005, the Belgian judge in charge of the case issued an arrest warrant against Habré and asks for his extradition from Senegal.
On 15 November 2005, Habré was arrested and detained in anticipation of the decision on Belgian’s extradition request.
At the extradition hearing on 25 November 2005, the Appeals Court in Dakar rules that it had no jurisdiction to rule on Belgium’s extradition request. The Court’s reasoning was based on Habré’s “immunity” as a former Head of State. This argument was immediately criticized by many NGOs because that immunity had already been waived by Chad. Habré was subsequently released.
On 27 November 2005, Senegal asks the African Union during its summit to indicate “the jurisdiction that is competent to try this matter”.
INTERVENTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND OF THE AFRICAN UNION
On 18 May 2006, the CAT ruled that Senegal had violated the UN Convention against Torture and called on Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré.
On 2 July 2006, the African Union panel decided that Habré should be tried in Senegal. To that end, on 31 January 2007, the Senegalese National Assembly adopted a law which allows the country to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, even when they are committed outside of Senegal.
On 15 August 2008, Habré was sentenced to death in absentia, together with 11 chiefs of the armed rebellion in Chad, by a criminal court in N’Djamena (Chad), for “undermining the constitutional order and the integrity and security of the territory”.
On 16 September 2008, fourteen victims file a new complaint against Habré for crimes against humanity and torture before Senegalese jurisdictions. However, from 2008 to 2010, Senegal refuses to advance with the case unless it received full funding for the trial.
EXTRADITION REQUESTS AND REFERRAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE (ICJ)
On 19 February 2009, Belgium instituted proceedings against Senegal before the International Court of Justice to request Habré’s extradition. On 8 April 2009, the ICJ accepted Senegal’s formal pledge not to allow Habré to leave its territory until the Court rendered a decision on the merits.
Thrice, the Dakar appeal Court rejected Belgium’s request for extradition on procedural motives.
On 20 July 2012, the ICJ decided, unanimously, that Senegal must without further delay prosecute or extradite Habré..
PROCEEDINGS AT THE EXTRAORDINARY AFRICAN CHAMBERS IN SENEGAL
On 18 November 2010, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules that Senegal must try Habré through a “special or ad hoc procedure of an international character.”
After a difficult negotiation process, on 22 August 2012 Senegal and the African Union signed an agreement establishing a special court, embedded in the Senegalese justice system, called ‘Extraordinary African Chambers’ (EAC).
On 2 July 2013, Habré was formally indicted by the EAC for crimes against humanity (wilful killing, massive and systematic practice of summary executions, kidnapping of persons followed by their enforced disappearance and torture and inhumane treatment), war crimes (wilful killing, torture and inhumane treatment, destruction of property, unlawful transfer and unlawful confinement, and violence to life and physical well-being) and torture committed in the period between 7 June 1982 and 1 December 1990.
On 5 July 2013, 1015 victims joined the procedure as civil parties.
On 13 February 2015, after 19 months of pre-trial investigation, a panel of four judges ordered Habré to stand trial for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.
The trial of Habré began on 20 July 2015 in front of the EAC. In parallel, from 14 November 2014 to 25 March 2015, the trial of more than twenty former officials of the era of Habré took place in Chad.
On the second day of the trial, the 21 July 2015, the judges of the Chamber decided to postpone the trial. Indeed, the lawyers of the accused did not appear before the Chamber and the President appointed three new counsels: Mbaye Sène, Mounir Ballal and Abdou Gning. On 7 September 2015, after a suspension of 45 days, the trial resumed. The trial ended on 11 February 2016.
On 30 May 2016, the EAC filed its verdict, sentencing Habré to life imprisonment. Habré was found guilty of torture, of the crimes against humanity of rape, forced slavery, murder, massive and systematic practice of summary executions, kidnapping of persons followed by their enforced disappearance, torture and inhumane treatment, and of the war crimes of murder, torture, inhumane treatment and unlawful confinement. The Chamber emphasized the central role Habré played in the repression of the civilian population and how he maintained a system of impunity and terror during his Presidency.
Habré’s lawyers appealed the judgment on 10 June 2016.
On 29 July 2016, the EAC granted the civil party victims of rape and sexual violence in the case 20 million FCFA each (33,880 USD), the civil party victims of arbitrary detention, torture, prisoners of war and survivors in the case 15 million FCFA each (25,410 USD) and the indirect victims 10 million FCFA each (16,935 USD). The EAC rejected the civil parties’ request for collective reparations.
The appeal trial started on 9 January 2017.
On 27 April 2017, the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal rejected Hissène Habré’s appeal and confirmed his conviction for crimes against humanity, including torture and murder. However, he was acquitted for the charge of rape.