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.
Mr. Habré’s 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 died after being infected with the coronavirus.
Mr. Habré was allowed out of prison for 60 days in April because 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 Mr. Habré was convicted in 2016, he 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, 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,” said Reed Brody, who has worked with Hissène Habré’s victims for over two decades.
A Chadian truth commission found that Mr. Habré’s government killed more than 40,000 people believed to be enemies of the state, including those who merely had come under suspicion, during his rule from 1982 to 1990.
Mr. Habré took power during a coup with aid from the United States, and he received weapons and assistance from France, Israel and the United States to keep Libya, Chad’s northern neighbor, at bay.