Hissène Habré

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Hissène Habré
حسين حبري
Hissene Habre.jpg
5th President of Chad
In office
7 June 1982 1 December 1990
Prime Minister Djidingar Dono Ngardoum
Preceded by Goukouni Oueddei
Succeeded by Idriss Déby
1st Prime Minister of Chad
In office
29 August 1978 23 March 1979
Preceded by François Tombalbaye
(as PM of colonial Chad)
Succeeded by Djidingar Dono Ngardoum
Personal details
Born (1942-09-13) 13 September 1942 (age 76)
Faya-Largeau, French Equatorial Africa
Political party National Union for Independence and Revolution
Spouse(s) Fatime Raymonde

Hissène Habré (Arabic: حسين حبريḤusaīn Ḥabrī,  Chadian Arabic: pronounced  [hiˈsɛn ˈhabre] ; French pronunciation:  [isɛn abʁe] ; born 13 September 1942), also spelled Hissen Habré, is a Chadian politician who served as the President of Chad from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990. He was brought to power with the support of France and the United States, who provided training, arms and financing. [1]

Arabic Central Semitic language

Arabic is a Central Semitic language that first emerged in Iron Age northwestern Arabia and is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in northwestern Arabia, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Arabic is classified as a macrolanguage comprising 30 modern varieties, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is derived from Classical Arabic.

Chadian Arabic is one of the regional colloquial varieties of Arabic and is the first language for over three million people, both town dwellers and nomadic cattle herders. The majority of its speakers live in southern Chad. Its range is an east-to-west oval in the Sahel, about 1400 miles long by 300 miles north-to-south. Nearly all of this territory is in the two countries of Chad and Sudan. It is also spoken elsewhere in the vicinity of Lake Chad in the countries of Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger. Finally, it is spoken in slivers of the Central African Republic and South Sudan. In addition, this language serves as a lingua franca in much of the region. In most of its range, it is one of several local languages and often not among the major ones.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.


In May 2016, he was found guilty by a court in Senegal of human-rights abuses, including rape, sexual slavery and ordering the killing of 40,000 people, and sentenced to life in prison. [2] He is the first former head of state to be convicted for human rights abuses in the court of another nation. [3]

Senegal republic in Western Africa

Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal also borders The Gambia, a country occupying a narrow sliver of land along the banks of the Gambia River, which separates Senegal's southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar.

Sexual slavery slavery with the intention of using the slaves for sex

Sexual slavery and sexual exploitation is attaching the right of ownership over one or more persons with the intent of coercing or otherwise forcing them to engage in sexual activities. This includes forced labor, reducing a person to a servile status and sex trafficking persons, such as the sexual trafficking of children.

Early life

Habré was born in 1942 in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad, then a colony of France, into a family of shepherds. He is a member of the Anakaza branch of the Daza Gourane ethnic group, which is itself a branch of the Toubou ethnic group. [4] After primary schooling, he obtained a post in the French colonial administration, where he impressed his superiors and gained a scholarship to study in France at the Institute of Overseas Higher Studies in Paris. He completed a university degree in political science in Paris, and returned to Chad in 1971. He also obtained several other degrees and earned his Doctorate from the Institute. After a further brief period of government service as a deputy prefect, [5] he visited Tripoli and joined the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT) where he became a commander in the Second Liberation Army of FROLINAT along with Goukouni Oueddei. After Abba Siddick assumed the leadership of FROLINAT, the Second Liberation Army, first under Oueddei's command and then under Habré's, split from FROLINAT and became the Command Council of the Armed Forces of the North (CCFAN). In 1976 Oueddei and Habré quarreled and Habré split his newly named Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armées du Nord or FAN) from Goukouni's followers who adopted the name of People's Armed Forces (Forces Armées Populaires or FAP). Both FAP and FAN operated in the extreme north of Chad, drawing their fighters from the Toubou nomadic people.

Faya-Largeau Place in Borkou, Chad

Faya-Largeau is the largest city in northern Chad and was the capital of the region of Bourkou-Ennedi-Tibesti. It is now in the Borkou Region, which was formed in 2008 from the Borkou Department of the former Bourkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region.

French Equatorial Africa federation of French colonial possessions in Central Africa

French Equatorial Africa, or the AEF, was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River into the Sahel, and comprising what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.

The Anakaza are a Chadian tribe of the Gourane Dazagara people. One of the largest of Daza subgroups, they are a nomadic people traditionally employed in camel-herding. They are mostly located in the Saharan region of Borkou in northern Chad, they can be found in a vast area from Faya-Largeau nomadizing an area stretching from Oum Chalouba to the Djourab and Mortcha. Their name literally means, according to Marie Lebeuf, "the mixed people".

Habré first came to international attention when a group under his command attacked the town of Bardaï in Tibesti, on 21 April 1974, and took three Europeans hostage, with the intention of ransoming them for money and arms. The captives were a German physician, Dr. Christoph Staewen (whose wife Elfriede was killed in the attack), and two French citizens, Françoise Claustre, an archeologist, and Marc Combe, a development worker. Staewen was released on 11 June 1974 after significant payments by West German officials. [6] [7] [8] Combe escaped in 1975, but despite the intervention of the French Government, Claustre (whose husband was a senior French government official) was not released until 1 February 1977. Habré split with Oueddei, partly over this hostage-taking incident (which became known as the "Claustre affair" in France). [5]

Bardaï, Chad Town in Tibesti, Chad

Bardaï is a small town and oasis in the extreme north of Chad. It is the main town of the Tibesti Region, which was formed in 2008 from the Tibesti Department of the former Bourkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region.

Françoise Claustre, was a French archeologist who was taken hostage by a group of Chadian rebels, led by Hissène Habré, on 20 April 1974, at Bardaï, in the Tibesti Mountains of northern Chad. At the same time, the rebels also seized a German doctor, Christophe Staewen, and Marc Combe, who was an assistant of Mrs. Claustre's husband, Pierre.

Rise to power

In August 1978 Habré was given the posts of Prime Minister of Chad and Vice President of Chad as part of an alliance with Gen. Félix Malloum. [5] :27 [9] :353 However, the power-sharing alliance did not last long. In February 1979 Habré's forces and the national army under Malloum fought in N'Djamena. The fighting effectively left Chad without a national government. Several attempts were made by other nations to resolve the crisis, resulting in a new national government in November 1979 in which Habré was appointed Minister of Defense. [9] :353 However, fighting resumed within a matter of weeks. In December 1980 Habré was driven into exile in Sudan. [9] :354 In 1982 he resumed his fight against the Chadian government. FAN won control of N'Djamena on 7 June and appointed Habré as head of state. [5] :30, 151

Vice President of Chad

Vice President of Chad was a political position in Chad from 1975 to 1982 and from 1990 to 1991.

Félix Malloum Chadian politician

Félix Malloum or Félix Malloum Ngakoutou Bey-Ndi was a Chadian politician. He attended the French military academy and saw action in Indochina and Algeria. He later served as an officer in the Chadian Military and a member of the ruling Chadian Progressive Party (PPT). In 1971, he became the Chief of General Staff with the rank of colonel and named Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces in 1972. In July 1973, he was arrested and imprisoned by President François Tombalbaye on charges of conspiring against the government, but was released after a successful coup-d'etat on April 13, 1975. He served as both President and Prime Minister of Chad until August 29, 1978, when Hissène Habré was appointed Prime Minister to integrate armed northern rebels into the government. However, he was unsuccessful and resigned from the presidency on March 23, 1979 after signing the Kano Peace Agreement which allowed the rebels to form a provisional government.


Habré seized power in Chad and ruled from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990 by Idriss Déby. Habré's one-party régime, like many others before his, was characterized by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities. He denies killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents, although in 2012 the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Senegal to put him on trial or extradite him to face justice overseas. [10]

Following his rise to power Habré created a secret police force known as the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), under which his opponents were tortured and executed. [11] Some methods of torture commonly used by the DDS included burning the body of the detainee with incandescent objects, spraying gas into their eyes, ears and nose, forced swallowing of water, and forcing the mouths of detainees around the exhaust pipes of running cars. [12] Habré's government also periodically engaged in ethnic cleansing against groups such as the Sara, Hadjerai and the Zaghawa, killing and arresting group members en masse when it was perceived that their leaders posed a threat to the regime. [11]

Habré fled, with $11 million of public money, to Senegal after being overthrown in 1990. [3] He was placed under house arrest in 2005 until his arrest in 2013. He is accused of war crimes and torture during his eight years in power in Chad, where rights groups say that some 40,000 people were killed under his rule. [13] Human Rights Watch claims that 1,200 were killed and 12,000 were tortured, and a domestic Chadian commission of inquiry claims that as many as 40,000 were killed and that more than 200,000 were subjected to torture. Human Rights Watch later dubbed Habré "Africa's Pinochet." [14] [15] [16]

War with Libya

Libya invaded Chad in July 1980, occupying and annexing the Aozou Strip. The United States and France responded by aiding Chad in an attempt to contain Libya's regional ambitions under Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. [9] :354

In 1980, the unity government signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Libya. The treaty allowed the Chadian government to call on Libya for assistance if Chad's independence or internal security was threatened. [5] :191 The Libyan army was soon assisting the government forces, under Goukouni, and ousted FAN from much of northern Chad, including N'Djamena on December 15. [5] :191 Libyan troops withdrew in November 1981. Without their support, Goukouni's government troops were weakened and Habré capitalized on this and his FAN militia entered N'Djamena on 7 June 1982. [5] :191 [9] :354–355 In 1983, Libyan troops returned to Chad and remained in the country, supporting Goukouni's militia, until 1988. [5] :193–198 [9] :354–356

Despite this victory, Habré's government was weak, and strongly opposed by members of the Zaghawa ethnic group. A rebel offensive in November 1990, which was led by Idriss Déby, a Zaghawa former army commander who had participated in a plot against Habré in 1989 and subsequently fled to Sudan, defeated Habré's forces. The French chose not to assist Habré on this occasion, allowing him to be ousted; it is possible that they actively aided Déby. Explanation and speculation regarding the reasons for France's abandonment of Habré include the adoption of a policy of non-interference in intra-Chadian conflicts, dissatisfaction with Habré's unwillingness to move towards multiparty democracy, and favoritism by Habré towards American rather than French companies with regard to oil development. Habré fled to Cameroon, and the rebels entered N'Djamena on 2 December 1990; Habré subsequently went into exile in Senegal. [17]

Support of the U.S. and France

The United States and France supported Habré, seeing him as a bulwark against the Gaddafi government in neighboring Libya. Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States gave covert CIA paramilitary support to help Habré take power and remained one of Habré's strongest allies throughout his rule, providing his regime with massive amounts of military aid. [18] The United States also used a clandestine base in Chad to train captured Libyan soldiers whom it was organizing into an anti-Qaddafi force. [19]

"The CIA was so deeply involved in bringing Habré to power I can't conceive they didn't know what was going on," said Donald Norland, U.S. ambassador to Chad from 1979 to 1981. "But there was no debate on the policy and virtually no discussion of the wisdom of doing what we did." [1]

Documents obtained by Human Rights Watch show that the United States provided Habré's DDS with training, intelligence, arms, and other support despite knowledge of its atrocities. Records discovered in the DDS' meticulous archives describe training programs by American instructors for DDS agents and officials, including a course in the United States that was attended by some of the DDS' most feared torturers. According to the Chadian Truth Commission, the United States also provided the DDS with monthly infusions of monetary aid and financed a regional network of intelligence networks code-named "Mosaic" that Chad used to pursue suspected opponents of Habré's regime even after they fled the country. [19]

In the summer of 1983, when Libya invaded northern Chad and threatened to topple Habré, France sent paratroops with air support, while the Reagan administration provided two AWACS electronic surveillance planes to coordinate air cover. By 1987 Gaddafi's forces had retreated. [5] :199–200 [9] :355–356

"Habré was a remarkably able man with a brilliant sense of how to play the outside world," a former senior U.S. official said. "He was also a bloodthirsty tyrant and torturer. It is fair to say we knew who and what he was and chose to turn a blind eye." [1]

Allegations of crimes against humanity

Human rights groups hold Habré responsible for the killing of thousands of people, but the exact number is unknown. Killings included massacres against ethnic groups in the south (1984), against the Hadjerai (1987), and against the Zaghawa (1989). Human Rights Watch charged him with having authorized tens of thousands of political murders and physical torture. [20] Habré had been called "the African Pinochet," [21] [22] [23] in reference to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. [21] . According to some leading experts, the tribunal that judges him, constitute an "internationalized tribunal", even if it is the most 'national' within this category" [24] .

The government of Idriss Deby established a Commission of Inquiry into the Crimes and Misappropriations Committed by Ex-President Habré, His Accomplices and/or Accessories in 1990, which reported that 40,000 people had been killed, but did not follow up on its recommendations.

Initial trial attempts

Between 1993 and 2003, Belgium had universal jurisdiction legislation (the Belgian War Crimes Law) allowing the most serious violations of human rights to be tried in national as well as international courts, without any direct connection to the country of the alleged perpetrator, the victims or where the crimes took place. Despite the repeal of the legislation, investigations against Habré went ahead and in September 2005 he was indicted for crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes and other human rights violations. Senegal, where Habré had been in exile for 17 years, [25] had Habré under nominal house arrest in Dakar. [26]

On 17 March 2006, the European Parliament demanded that Senegal turn over Habré to Belgium to be tried. Senegal did not comply, and it at first refused extradition demands from the African Union which arose after Belgium asked to try Habré. The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights expressed its approval of the decision. [27] If he were to be turned over, he would have become the first former dictator to be extradited by a third-party country to stand trial for human rights abuses. In 2007, Senegal set up its own special war-crimes court to try Habré under pressure from the African Union. [25] On 8 April 2008, the National Assembly of Senegal voted to amend the constitution to clear the way for Habré to be prosecuted in Senegal; [28] [29] Ibrahima Gueye was appointed as trial coordinator in May 2008. A joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate voted in July 2008 to approve a bill empowering Senegalese courts to try people for crimes committed in other countries and for crimes that were committed more than ten years beforehand; this made it constitutionally possible to try Habré. Senegalese Minister of Justice Madicke Niang appointed four investigative judges on this occasion. [30]

A 2007 movie by director Klaartje Quirijns, The Dictator Hunter, tells the story of the activists Souleymane Guengueng and Reed Brody who led the efforts to bring Habré to trial. [31]

Trial in Chad

On 15 August 2008, a Chadian court sentenced Habré to death in absentia [32] [33] for war crimes and crimes against humanity [32] in connection with allegations that he had worked with rebels inside Chad to oust Déby. [33] François Serres, a lawyer for Habré, criticized this trial on 22 August for unfairness and secrecy. [34] According to Serres, the accusation on which the trial was based was previously unknown and Habré had not received any notification of the trial. [32] 14 victims filed new complaints with a Senegalese prosecutor on 16 September, accusing Habré of crimes against humanity and torture. [35]

Trial in Senegal

The Senegalese government added an amendment in 2008, which would allow Habré to be tried in court. Senegal later changed their position, however, requesting 27 million euros in funding from the international community before going through with the trial. This prompted Belgium to pressure the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to force Senegal to either extradite Habré to Belgium or to proceed with the trial. This request was denied by the ICJ. [36]

In November 2010, the court of justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled that Senegal could not hold trial in the matter through local court only, and asked for the creation of a special tribunal on the matter of Habré's prosecution. In April 2011, after initial reticence, Senegal agreed to the creation of an ad hoc tribunal in collaboration with the African Union, the Chadian state and with international funding. [37]

Senegal changed their position again however, walking out during discussions on establishing the court on 30 May 2011 without explanation. The African union commission on Habré, in preparation for their next summit on 30 June, published a report urging to press Senegal to extradite Habré to Belgium. [38]

On 8 July 2011, Senegal officials announced that Habré would be extradited to Chad on 11 July, [39] but this was subsequently halted. [40] In July 2012, the ICJ ruled that Senegal must start Habré's trial "without delay". Amnesty International called on Senegal to abide by the ICJ's ruling, calling it "a victory for victims that's long overdue". [41] A trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) was ruled out, because the crimes took place before the ICC was fully established in 2002, and its jurisdiction is limited to events that took place after that date. [42]

In December 2012, the Parliament of Senegal passed a law allowing for the creation of an international tribunal in Senegal to try Habre. The judges of the tribunal would be appointed by the African Union, and come from elsewhere in Africa. [34]

On 30 June 2013, Habré was arrested in Senegal by the Senegalese police. [43] Chadian President Idriss Deby said of his arrest that it was a step towards "an Africa free of all evil, an Africa stripped of all dictatorships." Senegal's court, set up with the African Union, charged him with crimes against humanity and torture. [44] That year he was also sentenced to death in absentia for crimes against humanity by a Chadian court. [45] . The Tribunal that judged Hissiène Habré in Sénégal is said to have a huge range of specificities [46]

On 20 July 2015 the trial started. Waiting for the trial to open, Habré shouted: "Down with imperialists. [The trial] is a farce by rotten Senegalese politicians. African traitors. Valet of America". After that Habré was taken out of the courtroom and the trial began without him. [47] [48] On 21 July 2015 Habré's trial was postponed to 7 September 2015, after his lawyers refused to participate in court. [49] [50] [51] [52]

Conviction by the Special Tribunal in Senegal

On 30 May 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, and ordering the killing of 40,000 people during his tenure as Chadian president and sentenced him to life in prison. The verdict marked the first time an African Union-backed court convicted a former ruler for human-rights abuses and the first time that the courts of one country have prosecuted the former ruler of another country for crimes against humanity. [22] [53] [54] [21]

See also

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Political offices
Preceded by
Goukouni Oueddei
President of Chad
7 June 1982 – 1 December 1990
Succeeded by
Idriss Déby Itno