Chad Security Agents Face First Trial Over 1980s Killings, Torture

Former Chad President Habre raises his fist in air as he leaves court in Dakar, Senegal

More than 20 Chadian security agents charged with murder and torture appeared in a special court, at the start of the country’s first trial linked to abuses during the rule of ousted strongman Hissene Habre in the 1980s. Read more:

Scores of people who said they had suffered at the hands Habre’s secret police packed into the courtroom, some holding signs saying “No to Impunity” and “24 years of waiting”.

Human rights groups hold Habre responsible for killing up to 40,000 people in the eight years he ruled the oil-rich central African state, before being overthrown by current President Idriss Deby in 1990.

Twenty-one defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges at their first appearance on Friday. Another four men on the charge sheet have since died, and four more were either ill or on the run, said court officials.

Among the defendants in the courtroom was Saleh Younous, former director of Chad’s notorious secret police force known as the DDS. Rights groups have accused it of regularly torturing suspects in the capital’s Camp Martyr prison.

“It is the start of relief to see these powerful men of yesterday standing before the judges,” said Fatime Mando, one of the women packing the court, her voice trembling.