Reports from Chad, while waiting for reparations and the opening of the appeal proceedings in the Hissein Habré case Reviewed by Momizat on . Dakar-N’Djamena, 3 January 2017 Less than one week away from the opening of the appeal proceedings in the case against Chad’s former president Hissein Habré, on Dakar-N’Djamena, 3 January 2017 Less than one week away from the opening of the appeal proceedings in the case against Chad’s former president Hissein Habré, on Rating: 0

Reports from Chad, while waiting for reparations and the opening of the appeal proceedings in the Hissein Habré case

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DSCN43891Dakar-N’Djamena, 3 January 2017

Less than one week away from the opening of the appeal proceedings in the case against Chad’s former president Hissein Habré, on 9 January 2017 in Dakar, the Outreach Consortium for the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) is revisiting the reports made during its recent outreach tour around Chad. During its October 2016 road tour, spanning nearly 4,000 km, it met with many victims and individuals concerned with the historic case, one that has been long awaited for nearly a quarter of a century.

Six public debates involving several thousand people were held in many localities during the two-week outreach drive on the theme: “Hissein Habré trial: after the verdict, perspectives on reparations and the appeal procedure”.

In Abéché, capital of Ouaddai region (East), the people were mainly concerned about the reparations to expect at the conclusion of the trial of the country’s former president. “The Chad National Commission of Inquiry reported more than 40,000 victims, but that wasn’t the figure indicated by the Trial Chamber. Why is that?” one participant asked. “Hissein Habré imprisoned me for six months. I used to own a shop in the Malian neighbourhood in Ndjamena, and capital worth 3 million CFA francs was seized. It was unbearably hot inside the prison; there were dead people each morning. Should I expect to receive something?” asked an elderly man, a direct victim. “Even selling off Hissein Habré’s assets will not produce enough funds. Why don’t they simply compensate the victims instead of spending all that money on the trial? That’s unacceptable!” said another participant in the debate, which was covered by the local media.

Pecuniary reparations: “Why demand more?”

In Mongo, capital of the Guéra region (Central Chad), the main room of the Centre de Lecture et d’Animation Culturelle was filled with men and women of age to qualify as victims, who are regulars at Consortium events. When we first met them in 2014, they were sceptical as to whether the trial was going to take place. This time around, their scepticism had given way to confidence in the process. “I am grateful for everything you have done. You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us throughout the trial. I feel reassured about what’s to follow” said Myriam Ali; she introduced herself as the widow of a soldier who was killed by the Habré regime. The reparations awarded on 29 July 2016 to the victims are quite adequate, according to Moussa, a member of a victims’ association. “We are quite satisfied with what has been decided, and don’t see why the associations are demanding more. Even if they were to award one billion, what difference would that make? The little that has been awarded must be distributed to the victims without further ado. They have already waited for long enough!”

Victims all around Chad are largely in favour of pecuniary and individual reparations, and public events –with only a few exceptions – they are critical of the collective reparations requested by the Association of Victims of the Hissein Habré Regime (AVCRHH). According to its president, Clément Abaïfouta, “The reason why the victims are against collective reparations is because they distrust the Chadian government and are afraid that it could use the monies for its own purposes.” He pointed out that for that reason, “victims’ compensation must not be channelled through the Chadian government”, adding that the government “has done nothing” one year and a half after the decision to award pecuniary reparations in a case before the domestic courts involving former senior officials of the DDS (the Documentation and Security Directorate, which is responsible for many of the exactions committed during the Habré regime).

Life imprisonment: “It couldn’t have been anything less!”

The civil party lawyers were invited to speak at the debate held in the capital, N’Djamena, before an audience of more than 500 people, on 14 October 2016. Jacqueline Moudeïna, a Chadian lawyer who spearheaded the victim’s struggle to bring their former president to justice while he was living in exile in Senegal, took the time to explain why she appealed the decision on reparations. “We did quite well as regards the criminal trial; we managed to have Hissein Habré convicted and sentenced to life in prison. It couldn’t have been anything less. As for the civil claims, we did not have adequate time to prepare on the requests. But whenever we met with the victims, we asked them for their opinion. In the requests, we did not simply focus on the money aspect; we took account of the views of victims who wanted collective reparations. That involved income-generating projects, the erection of monuments, and commemorations. However, our requests in that respect were rejected [by the Trial Chamber]; and only the pecuniary aspect was considered.”

Decision regarding civil claims: “The Trial Chamber was in a rush”

The biggest problem was that we realised that the judges spent more time dealing with the criminal case than planned; that is why the decision on reparations was botched. I am not afraid to say that. The judges awarded monies to three categories of victims, but we do not know the full amount. Moreover, we would like the judge to set up a mechanism for putting the reparations into effect. They did not do so because they were in a rush. In the EAC decision, after a number of pages, one finds no trace of the list of civil parties; there are mix-ups with some of other associations; there are even redundancies. This is because they were rushed for time.”

At the time, we are going over the requests, one victim at a time. We have not lost hope, because mere fact of taking those reparations into account is good start. But we’re still faced with something that needs to be addressed on appeal.” Philippe Houssine, a lawyer for two other civil party associations was the next speaker. He said, “As mentioned by my learned colleague, we have not lost hope, but we are still faced with a challenge. When you look at the Chamber’s decision, you realise that the Chamber itself is uncertain as to how many victims have been compensated. We had to submit requests for reparations within only ten days. It was a frantic race against time. We had to establish categories and keep track of numbers. And we now realise that we’re not told [in the decision] how many rape victims, how many direct victims, how many indirect victims, are recognised.”

Some perpetrators escaped prosecution; some victims were denied compensation

After the aforementioned debate, the Consortium continued its road trip in the south, with stops in the towns of Sarh, Moundou and Bongor. As we come close to the conclusion of a trial considered by many an observer of African and world affairs as a historic victory of civil society against the impunity of heads of State, the victims and the public at large remain quite focused. Both victims and members of the public often asked why only one perpetrator was being prosecuted, but not the others. They also voiced concern about the fact it will not be possible to identify and compensate all the victims. In Chad as everywhere else, such frustration is an inescapable component of cases involving mass crimes. However, clear and straightforward explanations as to the scope and limits of the EAC decisions seemed to defuse the tension, that was palpable all around the country.

On 7 December 2016, the civil party lawyers submitted their appeal brief, and so did Habré’s court-appointed defence lawyers. The Prosecutor General submitted his observations on 27 December. The appeal proceedings are scheduled to begin 9 January 2017 in Dakar, before the Extraordinary African Chambers, with Judge Wafi Ougadeye of Mali presiding.

The Consortium

See also: Analyses and recommendations from the last outreach drive.

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