Reed Brody about the death of Hissene Habre

September 1, 2021

A bit of a special post: On 28 August 2021, Reed Brody, [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/21/the-dictator-hunter-works-from-home/] wrote on Facebook a post about the death of the former dictator of Chad Hissene Habre. Reed’s deep involvement in his case makes his observations worth a read:

A lot of people have asked me how I felt about the death in Senegal of the former dictator of Chad Hissene Habre, on whose prosecution I spent 17 years. https://www.nytimes.com/…/africa/hissene-habre-dead.html For me, especially in later years, the effort was much more about using the case to promote transformation and giving the victims a means to claim their dignity than about the person of Hissène Habré.At Habré’s trial, Kaltouma Deffalah, one of the survivors of sexual slavery, testified defiantly that she felt “strong, very courageous because I am before the man who was strong before in Chad, who …doesn’t even speak now, I am really happy to be here today, facing him, to express my pain, I am truly proud.” It was a sentiment expressed, in one way or another, by many of the survivors who testified.Since Habré was sentenced to life in prison in 2016, his victims have been campaigning to get reparations, as awarded by courts in Chad and Senegal. In fact, on the morning of his death, I was having a phone conference with the victims’ Chadian lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina [ see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/179E3C5C-9175-1B42-99C9-1004DDBC850E]and other lawyers on how to kick-start the stalled procedures, particularly at the African Union ( background here – https://www.hrw.org/…/hissene-habres-victims-continue…) That said, it is a strange feeling that he’s dead. I used to imagine that Habré and I were sitting across a chessboard in a strategic battle, trying to anticipate the other’s moves. Back in 2004, I asked the French journalist Christian Millet, who maintained friendly contact with Habré, what he thought the former dictator’s strategy was against us. And Millet responded: “Il vous attend dans sa grotte.” He is waiting for you in his cave, a reference to his days as a rebel fighter in the rocky desert of northern Chad. Habré was playing this chess game with the black pieces, waiting for us to over-extend. That is how as president of Chad, with French and American help, he defeated Libya’s Moemmar Qaddafi whose troops had occupied part of his country.In Senegal, we were in Habré’s cave, where he had used the millions he looted from the Chadian treasury to build himself a network of protection that included politicians, religious figures and journalists . But in the end, the tenacity and perseverance of his victims, the evidence of his massive crimes ( thousands of killings, systematic torture, sexual slavery ) , and the courage of some Senegalese leaders such as then-justice minister Aminata Toure, overcame Habré’s home-field advantage, and he was powerless to prevent his conviction in an exemplary and transparent trial.In his one written declaration to the investigating judges, Habré said that I was “an enemy… who has never hidden his aggressive and outrageous hostility, a specialist in forgery and lies.” How do I feel now? I’m grateful that Habré lived long enough to face justice and the accusatory gaze of his victims.”

One Response to “Reed Brody about the death of Hissene Habre”

  1. Sharon Rusu Says:

    Excellent piece, Hans, on Reed Brody’s recollections of Hissene Habre. These are important recall pieces on a number of levels, not least International Law and HR.

    On Wed, Sep 1, 2021 at 7:27 AM Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders and their awards wrote:

    > Hans Thoolen posted: ” A bit of a special post: On 28 August 2021, Reed > Brody, [see also > https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/21/the-dictator-hunter-works-from-home/%5D > wrote on Facebook a post about the death of the former dictator of Chad > Hissene Habre. Reed’s deep involv” >


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