On May 30, trial judges at the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal are due to deliver their verdict in the trial of Hissène Habré—the first time a former African leader has been held to account for atrocity crimes before a court in another African country.
Habré, who has refused to recognize the authority of the court, is facing charges of war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity, arising from his eight years in power, from 1982 to 1990. The special court in Senegal where he is on trial was set up with the support of the African Union, and which is presided over by Gberdao Gustave Kam from Burkina Faso, with two Senegalese judges alongside.
You can learn more about the story of the Habré trial in the latest edition of Talking Justice, a monthly podcast hosted by James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which runs the International Justice Monitor. Click on this link to listen to the conversation with Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch, who worked with survivors in the long struggle to bring Habré to justice:
From the opening of the trial in July last year until December, more than 90 witnesses have taken the stand, testifying to the violence Habré inflicted on his own people; he is accused of responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands killed and tortured in waves of political repression, and in brutal campaigns waged against regional rivals.
The trial in Senegal is the outcome of a sustained international effort to bring a vicious dictator to account for his crimes—an effort all the more noteworthy given the current tensions within Africa over the role of the International Criminal Court.