Chad ex-leader Habre set to appeal war crimes conviction
Chad’s former president Hissene Habre will on Monday begin an appeal against his life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity — a verdict hailed as a landmark for Africa.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, a body created by Senegal and the African Union, sentenced Habre, 73, to life in jail in May, an unprecedented conviction seen as a blow to the impunity long enjoyed by repressive rulers.
In July, Habre was further ordered to pay up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) to each victim who suffered rape, arbitrary detention and imprisonment during his rule, as well as to their relatives.
Habre has refused to recognise the court’s authority but court-appointed lawyers requested an appeal on his behalf.
“We were motivated to appeal by violations of the law and (the rights) of the defence and procedural errors,” one of the lawyers, Mbaye Sene, told AFP, adding that he didn’t want to reveal their “strategy”.
It was not clear whether Habre, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, would be in the dock on Monday.
“It’s an unknown,” said the court’s spokesman Marcel Mendy.
Habre’s hand-picked legal team will continue to boycott proceedings, lawyer Ibrahima Diawara told AFP.
“Habre believes that this does not concern him at all. He will not appear. We will see whether the court will use force to force him to come,” he said.
The hearing is expected to last several days, with the final decision expected by 30 April.
The verdict will be final. If his conviction is upheld, Habre will serve his sentence in Senegal or in another AU country.
The verdict brought closure for relatives of up to 40,000 people killed and many more kidnapped, raped or tortured during Habre’s 1982-1990 term as president of Chad.
It set a global precedent as the first time a country had prosecuted the former leader of another nation for rights abuses, said US lawyer Reed Brody, who has worked with the victims of the Habre regime since 1999.
“The appeals court now needs to make sure that a system is put in place so that Habre’s assets can be located, seized and transferred to his victims to compensate them for what they have suffered,” he said in a statement this week.
Known as a skilled desert fighter and often dressed in combat fatigues to fit the role, Habre fled to Senegal after his 1990 ouster by Chad’s current President Idriss Deby.
For more than 20 years, the former dictator lived freely in an upmarket Dakar suburb with his wife and children.