After the final verdict in the Habré case: questions and reactions in N’Djamena Reviewed by Momizat on . N’Djamena, Chad, 29 & 30 May 2017 Reparations! Justice rendered! That is the new battle cry for the victims of the crimes of Chad’s former president, Hissei N’Djamena, Chad, 29 & 30 May 2017 Reparations! Justice rendered! That is the new battle cry for the victims of the crimes of Chad’s former president, Hissei Rating: 0

After the final verdict in the Habré case: questions and reactions in N’Djamena

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N’Djamena, Chad, 29 & 30 May 2017

Reparations! Justice rendered! That is the new battle cry for the victims of the crimes of Chad’s former president, Hissein Habré, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the final verdict handed down in Dakar by the Appeals Chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) on 27 April 2017. On 29 and 30 May, the EAC Outreach Consortium organised four events in N’Djamena aimed at explaining the final verdict to members of civil society, victims and the public at large in Chad’s capital city, where reparations are eagerly awaited.

Judge Wafi Ougadeye of Mali pronounced the unappealable verdict on 27 April in Dakar. Journalists in N’Djamena were shown a video summary of the judgement, which was followed by explanations by Franck Petit, the Outreach Consortium’s communication expert. These include the primary penalty and the upholding of the sentence of life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. All of the defence’s grounds of appeal were rejected, except one, namely direct perpetration of rape of a woman, which was rejected because the Trial Chamber failed to respect the procedure for characterizing it and also because it was not covered in the investigation proceedings. Mr Habré’s being acquitted of that crime does not earn him a reduced sentence, given that he is still guilty of the other acts of sexual violence against young women by soldiers in the barracks at Kalaït and Ouadi Doum, and of other horrific crimes. The Appeals Chamber affirmed that Mr Habré had effective control over the DDS and the FANT and that he is thus responsible for their acts as a command superior.

As regards the claims for civil damages, the Appeals Chamber undertook the work of vetting the claims filed by the civil parties, of whom 7,396 appear on the list appended to the appeal judgement. These are the individuals who furnished proof of identity as direct victims or proof of kinship with a victim as indirect victims, and thereby qualify for the reparations awarded by the Trial Chamber. The expert explained further that the Appeals Chamber stipulated the manner in which the reparations were to be executed in awarding a specific sum to victim groups and a lump sum to all the civil parties: i.e. 82,290 billion CFA francs. Since the proceeds from Hissein Habré’s assets will not be sufficient to cover compensation to all the victims, the Chamber directed the Victims’ Fund, which is currently being established, to secure additional funding and to track Hissein Habré’s assets.

Blaise Djimadoum Ngargoun of the Chadian News Agency asked who would be prepared to donate to donate to the Fund, saying that according to his sources, the European Union does not seem prepared to do so. Will it be the African Union? Will it be Chad? A journalist from the magazine Espace Culture asked whether rejection of the charge of the direct perpetration of rape in the final verdict final has any impact on reparations. He was also curious about the differences in categories of reparations. Sonya Begredo, a reporter for CEFOD, asked how much Mr Hissein Habré’s assets are worth. Another person asked whether the victims-cum-civil parties in the cases against former DDS officials in N’Djamena, and in the case against Chad’s former president in Dakar can claim reparations in both instances. Yet another question was asked about collective reparations. And also about criteria that were applied in denying certain victims reparations?

The Consortium’s expert explained that for the moment, no State or institution has pledged to donate to the Fund. A staff member of the German embassy in Chad, who attended the event, asked how much the property seized from Hissein Habré is worth. It is difficult to say, but one thing is certain: it is worth far less than the actual amount required to cover the entirety of the reparations, unless new assets are unearthed. Also, rejection of the charge of direct perpetration of rape has no impact on reparations, given that the eight victims concerned are still recognised after the appeal, as they all endured the ordeal of being raped repeatedly in the military barracks. Rejection of the civil party claims was not due to lack of identification documents, a criterion that the Appeals Chamber considered “fundamental”. As concerns collective reparations, the expert noted that the Appeals Chamber wrote to the Chadian government seeking its views on the measures falling under its sovereignty, including a national day of commemoration, a memorial… The Chadian government did not respond favourably.

Why were some civil party requests rejected?

During the three years they have spent raising awareness about the EAC, whereby they have played a key role in terms of outreach for the people in the regions, the members of the seven civil society coalitions initiated by the Consortium, had never had the opportunity to meet all together in one place. Two members from each coalition, which comprise more than 70 organisations engaged in the defending human rights and the rights of victims, young people and women, travelled to Sarh, Moundou, Bongor, Massakory, Bongor, Abéché, N’Djamena to collect written materials and information for use in explaining the appeal verdict to the people in the respective areas. After the final verdict, the members of the coalitions are anxious about how to go about explaining to the victims that their requests for civil party status were rejected given all the efforts that those victims had put into to obtaining birth certificates and proof of kinship, which ended in vain and in some instances were thwarted by former DDS operatives who, according to one delegate, are working in the administrations.

And how does one go about bringing a smile back to the victims’ faces, at least that?

A delegate from Sarh asked: if Hissein Habré is found responsible for the acts committed by the army in the South in September 1984 while he was in Mecca at that time and it was the current president who was then directing the troops, couldn’t the victims use that as grounds to bring a case against the latter? Another delegate, from Moundou, expressed concern about the fact that the Appeals Chamber allowed unrecognised victims leeway to approach the Victims’ Fund: “How could it possibly do better than the Chamber?” The delegate from Bongor asked for more details about the workings of the Fund, when it will be operational and how it is to be administered. Another delegate, from Abéché, remarked: “What’s the point in holding false hopes considering that wherever you have money, you have problems?” A delegate from Moundou said: “What are we going to tell the victims? And with the mixed bag of satisfaction from securing the conviction and frustration from reparations, how can we bring a smile back to the victims’ faces, at least that?”

“For once, the dreams were right!”

In concluding, the delegates from the coalitions said: “A lot remains to be done by the lawyers for the victims both in terms of communication and explanation. They must indicate who was accepted and who wasn’t.” The delegates also proposed that the lists annexed the judgement should be printed out so as to, at least, enable the victims to consult them in the associations and see whether or not they feature their names. To allow direct access to the Victims’ Fund is to open a “Pandora’s box”, and that should not be encouraged, at least not until the Fund has received donations. One delegate reported that in Bongor while the Consortium was showing film about the trial, someone cried out: “It looks like a dream! It is fiction.” He could not believe that he was actually watching Hissein Habré on trial. He went on to say, “But it is really happening. For once, the dreamers were right.” Lastly, the delegates said that there is a great deal of demand for films, outreach for the victims in remote areas; interactive radio programmes in local languages and lawyers on the ground to give the whole exercise “greater credibility and impact”.

Counsel Moudeina: the new struggle for the Victims’ Fund

The day after, 30 May, Counsel Jacqueline Moudeina, who represents the Chadian victims, opened the meeting that the Consortium organised for them at CEFOD in N’Djamena. Regarding the Fund (she and other lawyers and associations worked on its establishment), she told the victims: “A Fund was created at last year’s African Union Summit in Kigali. We travelled to Kigali from Addis Ababa to meet the people who are involved in creating the Fund. We are working on this along with many others. And as we did for this court, we travelled around Europe and Africa raising awareness about donating to the Fund. But for that, we needed a Statute, which is being drafted, and a simple oversight mechanism. Let me be clear, thus far, people have done a whole lot of talking but the Fund is yet to receive any donations. We must act swiftly, and, especially, make sure that we do a proper job so as to ensure that the expectations of each and every victim are met.”

Clément Abaïfouta: “In order to obtain something, we must make noise!”

For the victims, having to wait for reparations seems predictable but also unacceptable, in a case which went to trial 17 years after the first complaints were filed in Dakar in 2000. Clément Abaïfouta, one of the victims who took part in that struggle, the man who was forced to become the DDS’ gravedigger during the Habré regime, offered words of encouragement: “We, the Chadian victims, have now gone down in the annals of history. The case has had international impact. We are the ones who dragged Hissein Habré to court! All across Africa, victims are coming to us to ask how we managed to pull this off, where to begin: Gambia, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic. We are yet to wrap our minds around that. So with regard to compensation, we must unite in the same way we did during the initial phase. In order to obtain something, we must make noise!”

Many of those who had testified at trial were among the hundreds of victims on hand at the CEFOD at the invitation of the Consortium. One of them, Mariam Hassan Bagueri, said: “I’m happy that Hissein Habré has been convicted. I lost a great deal; I endured many atrocities. I cannot recover everything I lost. I am aware of that. But still, I’m happy.” Many questioned and objected to the three categories established by the Chamber between victims of rape, victims of arbitrary detention and torture and indirect victims. For example, Saleh Ngaba, the widow of a journalist who was arrested, and disappeared, during the Habré regime, said that she did not understand why it is argued that indirect victims endured more suffering than direct victims. Another person asked: “How can it be argued that a person who is still uncertain as to whether his father is alive or dead suffers less that the person who was imprisoned and was lucky enough to be released? Many questions were also asked about beneficiaries. The Appeals Chamber decided to recognise not only family councils, in accordance with Chadian tradition, but also any family members who requested to be recognised. One victim remarked that this is bound to create problems, adding that arbitration will be necessary to prevent infighting among families once the monies are disbursed. The man who made the drawings featured in the report of Chad’s Commission of Inquiry was on hand. He wanted to know how Hissein Habré will serve his sentence and whether he will be treated to strokes of the cane each morning; or whether he will be kept under house arrest. Many wanted to know if they were recognised, and how they can find out if their names appear on the list contained in the appeal judgement.

Philippe Houssiné, who participated in that afternoon’s debate, said that it was the Chadian Government bore the most responsibility for compensating the victims. He also said that the current chairman of the African Union Commission is Chadian and that this would facilitate contacts and implementation of the Fund. In concluding, he said: “A court decision is unsatisfactory for as long as it is not implemented.” He also called upon all the victims and associations to come together for the success of this final phase of the struggle.

After N’Djamena, the EAC outreach team continued its outreach exercise concerning the appeal verdict and reparations in southern Chad. On Thursday, 1 June, it met with victims and members of the public in Sarh.

The Consortium

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