The life sentence handed by the African Union-backed court in Senegal to former Chadian leader, Hissene Habre was greeted with joy by human rights activists.
Habre’s supporters on the other hand wept as the hour-long ruling was handed down.
The Senegal-based court found Habre, 73, guilty of crimes against humanity, summary execution, torture, sexual slavery and rape amongst other charges.
After the verdict, Habre remained impassive in a white robe and turban, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses.
The trial is the first time a former head of state has been brought before a court in another country for alleged violations of human rights.
The trial by the AU-backed court was a way of meeting the growing complaints against the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, of only going after African leaders, showing that the continent can judge its own.
“This is the culmination of a long and bitter struggle against impunity. Today, Africa has won,” said President of the Association of Victims of the Habre regime’s crimes (AVCRHH), Clement Abaifouta.
“The days when tyrants could brutalize their people, plunder the wealth of their country and flee abroad to enjoy a life of luxury have come to an end,” said Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch.
Habre and his legal team have 15 days to appeal the ruling.