Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre will return to prison in Senegal on Sunday. This is after a two-month release aimed at protecting him from the coronavirus.
On April 6, a judge granted Habre who is now in his late 70s a 60-day release from prison. This is after his lawyer argued that his age left him particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.
Habre’s supporters are ramping up efforts to have him freed, which has fuelled fear among his victims that the authorities might be gearing up to release him permanently. However, Babacar Dione of Senegal’s justice ministry dismissed this saying that Habre would return to prison on Sunday.
The former dictator had spent his 60 days of freedom under house arrest at his home in Ouakam, Senegal’s seaside capital Dakar.
A lawyer who represented Habre’s victims said that: “no one wants to see Habre himself unprotected despite atrocities committed under his rule. But let us remember that Habre was convicted of mass murder. It would be a slap in the face to his victims for him to receive special treatment”.
Habre’s Arrest and Conviction
Hissene Habre seized power in Chad in 1982, fleeing to Senegal in 1990 after he was in turn overthrown. Habre who has been dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet” was placed under house arrest in 2005 until his arrest in 2013.
The former leader was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity, in the first African Union-backed trial of a former ruler. It was the culmination of a 17-year battle by victims of his rule to bring him to justice.
An Inquiry formed in Chad after he was deposed in 1990 said his government carried out 40,000 politically motivated murders. There were also 200,000 cases of torture in the eight years he was in power.
Furthermore, his dreaded political police force, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), committed some of the worst abuses. Habre denied any knowledge of the murders, torture, and rape that he was convicted of.
Till date, Senegalese authorities have recorded 4,328 cases of coronavirus to date, with 49 fatalities.