The Human Rights Watch has accused the United States and France for supporting former Chadian president, Hissene Habre, who was sentenced to life in prison in May for war crimes and crimes against humanity during his eight-year military rule.
In two reports analysing US and France‘s military support of Habre’s insurgency in the 1980s, the rights body uncovered how officials of the two countries were “aware of the abuses and atrocities perpetrated under Habre but chose to look the other way in the face of perceived strategic interests”.
The report indicated that under President Ronald Reagan, the US provided Habre’s rebel forces millions of dollars in military and security covert assistance in 1981 and 1982 to unseat the president at the time who was seen as pro-Libyan.
“While there is no evidence of direct US involvement in or active support for international crimes in Chad, the former director of the DDS (Chadian security service), speaking at his torture trial in Chad in November 2014, said that he was constantly assisted by a CIA agent who provided me with advice,” it said.
It also cited France for supporting Chad despite the abduction of the French anthropologist Francoise Claustre by Habre’s forces in 1974 and the murder of Captain Pierre Galopin, who went to Chad to negotiate her release in 1975.
“France provided him with arms, logistical support and information, and carried out large military operations to help Chad push back Libyan forces. Each department of the Chadian military had a French adviser,” it said.
Both countries were held responsible for offering training to Habre forces to fight Libyan troops and in some cases creating and training a “small army of anti-Gaddafi Libyan ‘contras’ from among the ranks of captured Libyan troops”.
Names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention, and 12,321 victims of human rights violations were discovered by HRW in 2001.
The former president went into exile in Senegal in 1990 after he was toppled in a military coup. He was arrested in 2013 to stand trial for crimes during his rule.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court set up in Senegal in 2013, charged him for giving the DDS direct orders to torture and punish thousands of people.
A Truth Commission in Chad accused Habre’s government of systematic torture which led to the death of some 40,000 people during his tenure.
Despite the support offered by the US and France for justice for the victims of the Habre regime, HRW called on both countries to “establish official inquiries to determine what officials knew about the commission of international crimes and whether any steps were taken to mitigate them”.
The US government has contributed US$1 million, and France contributed €300,000 to the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal which had a budget of approximately US$11 million to prosecute Hissene Habre.