Hissen Habre’s lawyers have appealed against the life sentence handed down to the former Chadian dictator a fortnight ago.
Habre was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during his eight-year rule, which was abruptly ended by a coup d’etat, the same way it had begun. The former dictator was charged with overseeing over 40,000 murders and the disappearance of thousands of citizens.
Victims who endured a grueling nine-month trial after 16 years of waiting for Habre to face justice will be the first priority for the judges, who have to decide on the question of civil compensation lawsuits filed on behalf of the victims’ relatives. The court’s spokesman said the appeal process is not expected to conclude before April 2017.
Habre’s court-appointed lawyers appealed against a life sentence handed to him two weeks by the Extraordinary African Chamber, a special African Union-backed court sitting in Senegal.
Habre was arrested in Senegal, where he was exiled, in 2013. A Chadian court had sentenced him to death in absentia for war crimes, but Senegal did not extradite him because of fears that the former dictator would not get a fair trial.
In 2005, a Belgian court issued a warrant for his arrest, claiming universal jurisdiction but, after Senegal referred the issue to the African Union, the continental body asked Senegal to try Habre.
Throughout the nine-month trial, Habre refused to recognise the court’s legitimacy, frequently disrupting proceedings. Sometimes, he had to be dragged to court.
During the trial, hundreds of victims of the man dubbed as the African Pinochet recounted gruesome details of torture and sexual abuse carried out by Habre’s secret police.