One of women testified that Habre himself had also raped her. One was 13 at the time, and another said that soldiers raped her 13-year-old daughter.
Attorney Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch, who has worked with the victims since 1999 and now attends the trial in Senegal, commented: “These brave women have broken a long silence to talk about the most painful things possible.
“The use of women and girls as sexual slaves has not always received the attention it deserves, but after almost 30 years, this trial offers these women the opportunity to finally place their abuses on the record.”
Rape is a prohibited weapon or tactic of war under the criteria set by the laws of war. Yet, despite the endemic use of rape as a weapon, no state has ever been held accountable for the use of rape as a prohibited weapon of war.
The current indictment of the ex-president does not include charges of rape, sexual enslavement, or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity. The victims’ lawyers have asked that these charges be added.
Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, is standing trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal on charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes.
A website in the name of the ex-president denounced the women for their testimony, calling them various names including “cabaret dancer” and “nymphomaniac prostitute.”
The trial chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habre ruled Chad. The president of the Trial Chamber is Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, who sits with two senior Senegalese judges.
The trial is now in its seventh week and is expected to last into December. Thus far, 48 victims and witnesses have testified, including historical experts, the president of Chad’s truth commission, former members of Habré’s secret police force, the Belgian judge who carried out a four-year investigation, researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and forensic and handwriting experts.