Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, has died while serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, including killings, torture and sex crimes, during his rule in the 1980s. He was 79.
His death was announced on Tuesday by the Justice Ministry in Senegal, the West African country in which he was convicted, according to news agencies. The former president’s wife also confirmed his death to news media in Senegal, several of which reported that he had been infected with the coronavirus.
Mr. Habré was allowed out of prison for 60 days in April after a judge said he was particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. His wife had long petitioned the Senegalese authorities to release him on health grounds.
When he was convicted in 2016, Mr. Habré became the first former head of state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by another country’s courts. His victims celebrated their hard-won victory in the Dakar courtroom, having fought for justice for decades. But five years later, the victims are still waiting for the compensation they were awarded.
“Habré will go down in history as one of the world’s most pitiless dictators,” said Reed Brody, who has worked with Hissène Habré’s victims for over two decades, “a man who slaughtered his own people to seize and maintain power, who burned down entire villages, sent women to serve as sexual slaves for his troops and built clandestine dungeons to inflict medieval torture on his enemies.”
A Chadian truth commission found that Mr. Habré’s government had killed more than 40,000 people believed to be enemies of the state, including those who had merely come under suspicion, during his rule, from 1982 to 1990.
Mr. Habré took power in a coup, receiving weapons and assistance from France, Israel and the United States to keep Libya, Chad’s northern neighbor, at bay.
A full obituary will appear soon.