Foreign Policy Blogs

Chad's 'African Pinochet' – Time for Trial?

An African Union summit will bring African heads of state together tomorrow in Libya; in anticipation 8 human rights organizations  yesterday called on the AU to ensure that Senegal prosecutes former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity and torture.

Habré, dubbed the “African Pinochet”, ruled Chad from 1982 until 1990; a Truth Commission accused his government of having carried out 40,000 politically motivated murders and 200,000 cases of torture during those 8 years.   He has lived in Senegal since his ouster in 1990.

For nearly 2 decades, affected Chadians and international human rights advocates have sought to bring him to trial. This long road was the subject of a 2007 film, and has included a Senegalese indictment issued in 2000, an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium in 2005, an AU mandate in 2006 that Senegal prosecute Habré, and in 2009, a decision by the ICJ not to extradite him to Belgium where he faces charges brought by a dual Belgian-Chadian national.

With allegations of 40,000 deaths, the AU and Senegal need to follow through on the promises they’ve made to prosecute.  But if the past 19 years are any indication, the pace is unlikely to quicken anytime soon.



Lisa Gambone

Lisa Gambone is a NY attorney who has provided pro bono work for Human Rights Watch, the ICTR Prosecution and Lawyers Without Borders, first while practicing at a large law firm in London, now independently. She has also spent time at the Caprivi high treason trials in Namibia and at human rights organizations in Belfast, London and New York. She has helped edit and provided research for several publications, including case books on the law of the ad hoc tribunals and a critique of the Iraqi Anfal Trial. She holds a JD specializing in International Law from Columbia University, an MA in International Economics and European Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS, and a BA in International Relations - Security & Diplomacy from Brown University. Here, she covers war crimes and international justice.