The former president of Chad, Hissene Habre has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Extraordinary African Chambers set up by Senegal, after he was found guilty of crimes against humanity, rape and sexual slavery.
Habre, whose trial for crimes against humanity took place in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, was sentenced on Monday, May 30, BBC reports.
Habre refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court.
It marks the first time that the court created by the African Union has tried a former leader for human rights abuses.
He was president from 1982 to 1990, and fled to Senegal when he was overthrown. It’s been 11 years since a court in Belgium issued a warrant for him and 26 years since he fled Chad.
His victims expressed satisfaction over verdict, saying it was a historic day for Chad and for Africa.
“It is the first time that an African head of state has been found guilty in another African country. This will be a lesson to other dictators in Africa who are still there and impose dictatorship,” one of the victims said.
On her part, his wife, Fatim Raymonde Habre described the trial as unfair, saying, “a trial that is not worthy of the rule of law. There were no defence witnesses and no investigation. And today it was so miserable when I heard the judge speaking. I did not see a solid legal argument worthy of justice.”
Amnesty International has called for a trust fund for victims of convicted war criminal Hissene Habre to be set up “without delay”.
The moment victims hear Habre’s sentence.
Reacting to Habre’s conviction, the US secretary of state, John Kerry said it was a landmark ruling.
“As a country committed to the respect for human rights and the pursuit of justice, this is also an opportunity for the United States to reflect on, and learn from, our own connection with past events in Chad,” he said.
Others have also been reacting to Habre’s sentence, likening the situation to that of Nigeria where the military harass and kill innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, reports of the military shooting unarmed protesters at a church in Onitsha surfaced on Monday. The pro-Biafran activists were celebrating Biafran Day in memory of Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. But, the celebration turned sour as the military, police, members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) clashed, killing over 30 persons and injuring many.
According to report, a signal was sent to several unit commanders in the Southeastern parts of Nigeria early this morning, asking them to be on “standby’ in case of a breakdown of law and order as pro-Biafra agitators embark on street protests.
Many have condemned the killing of unarmed civilians by security agents in the country. The national publicity secretary of campaign for democracy (CD) Dede-Uzor-Dede, urged the federal government to arrest those involved in the killings of the harmless youths with a view to bringing them to justice.