“The African Union Is Nothing But A Union Of African Heads Of State Who Cover For Each Other.” Chad Dictator’s Prosecutor
“Getting to a point where we can try Hissène Habré is a turning point for Africa.” Habré’s Chadian prosecutor, Jacqueline Moudeina “Hissène Habré is the fourth dictator charged with crimes against humanity who was supported by the Reagan ad- ministration.” –Human Rights Watch spokesper- son Reed Brody
At the end of May 2016, after a 17-year campaign, Hissène Habré, the president of Chad from 1982 to 1990, was con- victed by a Special African Tribu- nal in Senegal. This was the first time an African head of state was tried by an African court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of torture.
With Burundi, South Africa and Gambia having withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC), African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma re- cently used Habré’s conviction as an example of how AU-agreed and fundedAfrican courts can de- liver their own justice, without the ICC. Jacqueline Moudeina is the Chadian prosecutor who repre- sented 4,445 victims in the case against Habre. Speaking in the upcoming Al Jazeera documentary, Hissène Habré: Dictator on Trial, she says, “Getting to a point where we can try Hissène Habré is a turning point for Africa… It’s a turning point in justice. Africa is taking its responsibilities seriously when it comes to its own children massacring their population.” But she is anything but compli- mentary about the African Union’s role in this. “We were so naïve; today I laugh at our naivety. On our side we had the legal base that was needed. It was the con- vention against torture. All the necessary conditions were met to put Hissène Habré on trial. But he was a formerAfrican head of state and the African Union is nothing but a union of African heads of state who cover for each other.” An estimated 40,000 people were killed and 200,000 tortured dur- ing Habré’s eight-year rule. Habré did not speak a single word during the eight months of his trial, not looking once at the hundreds of his victims who gave their testimonies day after day. He is now appealing. Hissène Habré: Dicta- tor on Trial also investigates what turned Chad’s former president into such a bloodthirsty dictator, placing some of the blame on France and America, who supported him blindly because he was an ally against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in neighbouring Libya.
The documentary hears testimony that the CIA paid Habré’s notorious secret police force, DDS, and that some of the DDS’s most feared torturers were trained in America.
Hank Cohen, the USA’s Secre- tary of State of African Affairs from 1989-1993, admits in the documentary, “Of course we knew about human rights viola- tions in Chad. It was not an issue for us… Our main focus was Libya… We frequently have to help people who are not very nice to do our things but we did not re- gret anything there. It is realpoli- tik.”
Human Rights Watch spokesper- son Reed Brody, nicknamed “the dictator hunter,” was a legal coun- selor on the case. He says the USA’s support for Habré is part of a larger trend. “Hissène Habré is the fourth dictator charged with crimes against humanity who was supported by the Reagan administration… You have Augusto Pinochet in Chile; you have Hissène Habré in Chad; you have Duvalier in Haiti; and you have Rios Monte in Guatemala.”
Al Jazeera Africa PR