Human rights groups welcome Hissene Habre’s life sentence

Former Chad ruler Hissene Habre has been handed a life sentence for crimes against humanity.

FILE: Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre gestures as he leaves a Dakar courthouse after an identity hearing on 3 June 2015. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - Governments and human rights groups have welcomed the conviction of former Chad ruler Hissene Habre and the life sentence imposed on him for crimes against humanity.

They have commended the courageous testimony of 69 survivors of detention and abuses, including a woman whom Habre was found guilty of raping four times.

The United States welcomes the judgement of the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, calling it a landmark in the global fight against impunity for atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It says Habre's eight-year term as the president of Chad until 1990 was marked by large-scale, systematic violations, including the murder of at least 40 000 people, widespread sexual violence, mass imprisonment, enforced disappearance, and torture.

Amnesty International says the judgment marks a significant moment for international justice and a huge relief for the tens of thousands of victims who have waited for this day for over 25 years.

Human Rights Watch's Reed Brody, who worked on the case for 17 years, says today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.

Amnesty International has welcomed the life sentence.

A 1992, Chadian Truth Commission accused Habre's government of up to 40,000 political murders as well as systematic torture, mostly by his feared intelligence police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).

An investigation by Human Rights Watch in 2001 unearthed thousands of documents in the abandoned DDS headquarters updating Habre on the status of detainees.

During the trial, a court handwriting expert confirmed margin notes on one document to be Habre's.