Charging Hissène Habré with Sexual Violence Crimes

With gratitude to Kim Thuy Seelinger of UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, who coordinated and led in drafting the Amicus brief, as well as other members of the drafting team Naomi Fenwick and Khaled Alrabe, I share news regarding the Amicus Brief we drafted to assist the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Dakar, Senegal presiding over the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré concluded last week.

Habré was charged with torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity for acts he allegedly committed while in power from 1982 to 1990. Despite ample allegations in the factual record detailing multiple incidents of rape, sexual slavery, genital injury, forced nudity, and violations of reproductive health by Hissène Habré himself and agents under his command, he was not formally charged with sexual violence crimes.

With experts like Justice Richard Goldstone, George Kegoro, Dr. Patricia Sellers, and IntLawGrrls Dr. Kelly Askin and Professor Beth Van Schaack, Amici encouraged the judges to revise the charges against Habré to more fully account for sexual crimes. Amici argued that the Extraordinary African Chambers has the power and responsibility to revise the charges against the defendant to include these acts of sexual violence, which constitute crimes under the Statute of the Court. These acts were prohibited and criminalized under customary international law at the time Habré was in power (7 June 1982 to 1 December 1990). Charging these acts as such under the Statute is supported by customary international law as it existed at the time of the Habré regime.

Amici explained that rape and other acts of sexual violence can be characterized as various war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the independent crime of torture under the Statute. Specifically, the Court may find that, at the time of the Habré regime: (i) rape could qualify as the war crimes of “torture or inhuman treatment” and “outrages upon personal dignity”, as a crime against humanity, and as a form of torture under customary international law; (ii) slavery, including sexual slavery, could qualify as a crime against humanity, while forced prostitution could qualify as a war crime and a crime against humanity; and (iii) other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity could qualify as the war crimes of “torture or inhuman treatment” and “outrages upon personal dignity”, as crimes against humanity, and as a form of torture.

This week, Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam, President of the EAC, personally acknowledged receipt of the brief and said it would be useful to chambers. However, he was not inclined to admit the brief formally into the record.

Please find here the amicus in French and English:

Mémoire D’Amicus Curiae

Amicus Curiae Brief in English

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