(Dakar, October 1, 2013) – The United States announcement of a US$1million contribution to the special Senegalese court charged with trying the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré affirms the importance of Senegal’s efforts to ensure justice for Chadian victims in Africa, Human Rights Watch said today.
The US contribution was announced on October 1, 2013, after a meeting between Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, and Senegalese Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba. It follows President Barack Obama’s pledge while in Dakar in June to support the Extraordinary African Chambers, created in February to try the worst crimes of Hissène Habré’s government in Chad. On July 2, the chambers indicted Habré for crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes, and placed him in pretrial detention.
“Congratulations to Senegal certainly are in order,” said Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch who has worked with Habré’s victims since 1999. “The development of the special court in Senegal is an important step in the delivery of justice for African victims.”
After the meeting, Rapp told Human Rights Watch that he congratulated Kaba for Senegal’s commitment to fighting impunity in Africa. President Obama praised Senegal’s establishment of the court when he met with Senegalese President Macky Sall, in Dakar, on June 27.
Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his presidency in Chad, from 1982 until 1990. He was deposed by the current Chadian president, Idriss Deby Itno, and fled to Senegal. He has lived there ever since, as his victims waged a 22-year campaign to bring him to justice.
The Obama administration has supported the victims’ campaign. In September 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote to Abdoulaye Wade, then Senegal’s president, to urge a speedy trial after a delay of over a decade. In a June 2012 report to Congress, Secretary Clinton stated that, “