[JURIST] A court in Senegal convicted former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré [BBC profile] of crimes against humanity committed during his rule from 1982 to 1990 and sentenced to life imprisonment on Monday. He was found guilty [BBC report] of sex slavery, rape and the ordered killings of an estimated 40,000 people. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] lawyer Reed Brody, who initiated the trial, stated [official Twitter]:
This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end. Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.
This trial marks the first time a court with backing from the African Union [official website] has tried a former ruler for human rights violations, and also the first time a former African head of state was found guilty by an another African country. Habré has fifteen days to appeal the sentence.
Habré, who fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990, was indicted [JURIST report] by the Extraordinary African Chambers in July 2013 and placed in pretrial detention. In September the former leader was carried into court [JURIST report] by masked security agents following his refusal to participate in his own trial. In July the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal suspended [JURIST report] his trial on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, reportedly due to the need for court appointed lawyers to prepare the former leader’s defense. In March 2015 a criminal court in Chad sentenced [JURIST report] Habré-era police officers to prison tor torture. In 2013 more than 1,000 victims filed for civil party status, asking the Extraordinary African Chambers to officially recognize them as parties with an interest in the matter. The African Union began talks with Senegal to come up with a plan for Habré’s trial after the International Court of Justice [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in July 2012 that Senegal must either try Habré promptly or extradite him to Belgium for trial.