On This Day
April 7, 2020 – Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad from 1982-1990, has been granted 60 days of house arrest due to the increased risk of his contracting COVID-19 in prison. The decision to move Habré from Cap Manuel Prison was made by the Senegal Ministry of Justice, the body tasked with overseeing the former dictator’s imprisonment since his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Senegal Justice Minister Malick Sall sought to quell any potential criticism of the decision by stating, “Habré was not released. Hissène Habré is still in prison, it is simply the place of detention that has changed.”
Habré served as Prime Minister and Vice President of Chad from 1978-1980, during which time his forces clashed with the national army loyal to General Felix Malloum. Following two years in exile in Sudan, Habré’s forces took control of Chad in 1982, and he became head of state. Habré established a one-party system that became notorious for human rights abuses at the hands of its secret police force, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).
In 1990, Habré’s government was toppled by Zaghawa rebel forces, and Habré first fled to Cameroon before going into exile in Senegal.
After years of debate as to where exactly Habré’s trial would be held, in 2013, Senegal passed a law that allowed for the creation of an international tribunal with judges appointed by the African Union. Finally, in 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers found Habré guilty of the murder of 40,000 people, rape and sexual slavery during his reign, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
It was later revealed the U.S. supported Habré’s rise to power as part of a larger policy of Libyan containment, and that intelligence agencies were involved in training his DDS.
Pictured above: Habré meeting U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the White House, 1987