A total of 1208 people are thought to have been killed or died in detention, and 12 321 others have been victimised under the command of former US and France ally, Chad dictator Hissene Habré, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week, citing documents compiled by the Chadian Victims’ Association.
HRW counsel Reed Brody, who has been working hard for more than a decade to bring the former butcher to justice, said Habré is the most brutal US-backed dictator one has never heard of.
Brody recounts how documents found at Habré’s secret police headquarters in the capital Ndjamena in the 90s contained the names of all the people who have been victims of Habre’s eight-year’s reign of terror.
The Chadian Victims Association is believed to have spent six months to put together these documents.
“Inside the building we stumbled upon room after room strewn with documents, on the floors, on the stairs,” Brody said in the HRW weekly report published on Thursday.
“We started picking up the documents and realised there were the files of Habré’s political police. They provided the roadmap to Habré’s oppresion – how many people were in jail on any given day, how many people died in jail,” he explained.
“They allowed us to give people their family members’ death certificates. We could help many families learn what happened to their loved ones.”
Despite this hard and first-class evidence, Brody said Senegal – first under the leadership of Abdou Doiuf and later of Abdoulaye Wade – refused to arrest Habré.
Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 after he was overthrown by another dictator, current head of state Idriss Deby – again with the help of France and US.
As Habré massacred his own people, France and US closed their eyes and never said a word. Instead, they continued supplying Habre with cash, military aid and protection to counter Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s influence in the region
Habré is currently awaiting trial in a Senegalese jail, after Senegal’s newly elected president Macky Sall agreed to finally give him in to face justice.
Africa, a continent run and ruled with iron-fist by more than 40 dictators, is full of secret police headquarters where human rights activists, journalists, opposition politicians and other ordinary citizens – branded as ‘enemy of state’ – are being jailed, tortured and sometimes killed or die in detention.
Photo: Chad dictator Hissene Habré