Testimony mounts in Habre trial

2015-09-24 12:17
Hissene Habre. (File, AFP)

Hissene Habre. (File, AFP)

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Dakar - As an avalanche of testimony overwhelms exiled dictator Hissene Habre, his lawyers have repeatedly employed one line of defence - that there is no smoking gun linking him to the atrocities of 1980s Chad.

The 73-year-old is making history in the dock of a special tribunal in Senegal over his regime's brutality - the first time a despot from one African country has been called to account by another.

Top official

Habre, who fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990, is being prosecuted in his adoptive country's capital Dakar for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture during eight years of repression.

Rights groups say 40 000 people were killed during a regime marked by fierce repression of opponents and the targeting of rival ethnic groups - although an investigating commission says the real toll is likely to be far higher.

The dramatic climax to the opening act has been the evidence of Bandjim Bandoum, a remorseful top official in the regime's feared political police, the Documentation and Security Directorate. 

"Records of the questioning of detainees came back from the presidency with annotations: E for 'execute'; L for 'set free' or V for 'seen'," Bandoum, a top officer in the DDS under Habre's regime, has  told the court.

Risked their lives

"Once a statement was prepared by the DDS on a prisoner, only the president could request a release," he said, adding that Habre was "aware of everything that was happening" in the department's detention centres.

Bandoum, who fled Chad to live in France, said DDS agents who challenged their orders risked their lives and the safety of their families.

"Even Habre's closest collaborators were afraid of him," he told the Extraordinary African Chambers.

Read more on:    hissene habre  |  chad  |  senegal  |  west africa

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