Magazine article New African

AU Tribunal Unmoved by Habre Appeal

Magazine article New African

AU Tribunal Unmoved by Habre Appeal

Article excerpt

The failure of the former Chadian dictator, Hissene Habre to overturn a conviction of guilty imposed by a special AU tribunal at his trial in Dakar, Senegal last year is a resounding success for the concept of African justice, writes Thomas Collins.

Attempts by Hissene Habre's lawyers to overturn the ex-Chadian president's life sentence have fallen short in Senegal, setting in stone the resolute success of the African Union (AU) and Senegalese tribunal set up to try him last year.

Habre was convicted of crimes against humanity including summary execution, torture and rape by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), a body created by Senegal and the AU, which brought to a close a 17-year struggle to see justice done.

After refusing to recognise the authority of the tribunal--a tactic used by others cut from the same cloth, like Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor--Habre requested an appeal in 2017 but, to his disappointment, all charges have been upheld--except for rape.

Ougadeye Wafi, the Malian judge overseeing the appeal, said he could not uphold the rape conviction as it was not on the original indictment, but that this would not affect the life sentence.

Habre has been living in exile in Dakar for 25 years and according to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, his government was responsible for the use of systematic torture and the death of 40,000 people during his rule (1982-1990).

The wrapping up of this case is hugely symbolic as it indicates a growing maturity among African juridical structures, which could test the credibility of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the first time an African dictator has been sentenced in the court of another African nation.

The EAC was set up in 2013, following on from former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade changing the country's constitution in 2008 to allow the prosecution of non-Senegalese residents for crimes against humanity--a move aimed directly at Habre. This was crucial to snaring Habre as it instituted the concept of universal jurisdiction into Senegalese law.

Universal jurisdiction is a principle of international law that allows national courts to prosecute serious crimes even when committed outside sovereign territory and against foreign victims. …

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