Mahamat Djibrine

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 02.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Mahamat Djibrine was a member of the Directorate of Documentation and Service (DDS) political police, established as a secret police force during the rule of Hissene Habre in Chad. The DDS served as the prime instrument of repression during the regime.

It is alleged that during Habre’s rule from 1982 to 1990, Djibrine, as a member of the DDS, orchestrated acts of torture, gross violence and politically motivated killings against the population of Chad, especially against Habre’s political opponents. Victims further alleged that the DDS had carried out acts of barbarianism and illegal detention, with hundreds claiming at the hands of Djibrine himself, securing his reputation as the most notorious torturer.

In the National Truth Commission’s findings victims alleged that Djibrine systematically tortured them during interrogation as they were imprisoned. Acts ranged from electric shocks, near asphyxia, ’supplice des baguettes’ where victims’ heads were squeezed between sticks, to the infamous ‘arbatachar’ where a prisoner’s four limbs were tied together behind his back leading to loss of circulation and paralysis. Additionally Djibrine served as a member of a committee of the DDS charged with arresting and oppressing members of the Hadjerai and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

Until his arrest, Djibrine had enjoyed high positions in the police force such as Chief of Staff of the Director-General of the Chadian National Police. In 2005, he even acted as representative of Chad in the peacekeeping force sent to Cote d’Ivoire by the United Nations (UNOCI) where he investigated human rights abuses. He was recalled and thereafter withdrawn from this operation by the Chadian government upon heightened allegations against him of systematic torture and abuse.

Senegal was mandated by the African Union to try former Chadian President Hissene Habre and his accomplices for acts committed during his regime in the Extraordinary African Chambers. Special tribunal judges were also authorised to carry out investigations in Chad as a result of a special agreement entered into by Senegal and Chad on 3 May 2013. It is on this basis that Djibrine was arrested for these acts on 14 May 2013 after DDS victims filed a suit. Djibrine was to be transferred to Senegal in June 2014 for aiding and abetting Habre in acts of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

legal procedure

Senegal was mandated by the African Union to try former Chadian President Hissene Habre and his accomplices for acts committed during his regime in the Extraordinary African Chambers.

Special tribunal judges were also authorised to carry out investigations in Chad as a result of a special agreement entered into by Senegal and Chad on 3 May 2013. It is on this basis that Djibrine was arrested for these acts on 14 May 2013 after DDS victims filed a suit. Djibrine was to be transferred to Senegal in June 2014 for aiding and abetting Habre in acts of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

However, the Chadian government refused to transfer the accused, and ordered that he be tried in Chad, along with 22 others former senior officials of the Habre’s regime.

The trial began on 14 November 2014 before the Criminal Court of N’Djamena. This trial lead by Chadian judges was highly criticized by a variety of stakeholders, as it did not amount to the expected purge of the former regime by the Senegalese justice.

The Criminal Court rendered its verdict on 25 March 2015. Djibrine, along with six other accused, was convicted of torture and sentenced to life imprisonment.

context

Chad gained independence from France on 11 August 1960 and has known no real period of peace since then. A long running civil war, several invasions by Libya and the emergence of rebel movements in various regions have torn the country apart for several decades. The division between the North of Chad, a desert land populated by Muslims, and a fertile South inhabited by animists converted to Christianity, was reinforced by the French colonialists who favoured the South thereby reversing the “historical” domination of the North.

For almost twenty years, Libya exercised a direct influence over Chad’s political affairs. In 1973, it first occupied, then, in 1975, annexed, the Aozou strip, in the North, a stretch of land claimed by both countries. The Libyan government also supported several rebel groups from the North of Chad, most notably the Chad National Liberation Front, FROLINAT, founded in 1966, which fought with the goal of promoting opposition to the monopoly on power exercised by the South.

In 1979, the Transitional Government of National Union (GUNT-French acronym) gained power following an agreement reached in Lagos at which the main warring factions were brought together. This coalition fell apart in March 1980 when the Minister of Defence,Hissène Habré seceded with his Armed Forces of the North (FAN-French acronym), which he had founded three years beforehand. In doing so he unleashed a 9 month battle that devastated the capital, N’Djamena.

With the solid support of Reagan in the USA, Hissène Habré came to power on 7 June 1982. He immediately set up a one party regime with his stated intent being to bring peace and calm to Chad and to end for once and for all the dissidence in the South. In 1982, Habré’s FAN, which in the interim had become the regular armed forces and was to take the name of the National Armed Forces of Chad (FANT-French acronym), regained control over the principal towns in the South of Chad. However, far from being pacified, the South was then witness to the emergence of a widespread armed opposition fiercely opposed to Habré, called the CODOS (an abbreviation of “Commandos”. This climate of resistance and opposition to Habré led to the “Black September” of 1984. Several sources have indicated that the repression against the southern opposition at the time was especially violent and was aimed not only at the CODOS rebels but also at the civilian population and in particular those in positions of responsibility, such as civil servants and senior administrative officials, all of whom were suspected of collusion with the rebels. In certain prefectures, widespread arrests and massive executions of civilians were carried out intentionally with the sole aim of spreading terror.

Many witnesses have given evidence on the eight years of the Hissène Habré regime during which there were widespread arrests, mass murders, and persecutions against certain ethnic groups whose leaders appeared to him to be a threat to his regime. Notably amongst such groups which were periodically targeted were the Sara and other southern groups( in 1984), the Hadjarai (in 1987), Chadian Arabs and the Zaghawa (1989-1990). In 1992, the Truth Commission of the Chadian Justice Minister, established by President Déby, accused the Habré government of some 40’000 politically motivated murders and of systematic torture. The major part of these predations were carried out by Habré’s political police- the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS)- whose leaders were accountable only to Hissène Habré and who were all members of his own small Gorane ethnic group.

After Hissène Habrés came to power, the GUNT still continued its resistance in exile with the support of Libya. In June 1983, the GUNT forces took over Faya-Largeau in the far North of Chad with the help of Libyan troops. The Libyan troops were to occupy the North of Chad up until the counter-offensive by Habré’s forces which was launched in 1986 and continued until March 1987, at which time the movement began the re-conquest of the North with the support of the French army. Habré and Qaddafi then concluded a cease fire agreement in September 1987. Diplomatic relations between Chad and Libya were re-established in October 1988. The Baghdad Accords were signed a month later thereby sealing the reconciliation between Habré and Acheikh Ibn Oumar a former leader of the GUNT.

On 1st December 1990, after a year of rebellion, the Patriotic Movement of Salvation, a rebel force led by President Idriss Déby, forced Hissène Habré from power. Prison doors were subsequently opened up and hundreds of political prisoners who had been held in various secret detention centres in the capital of Chad were thus liberated.