The Habré trial or Africa’s contribution to international criminal justice Lessons for Central African Republic and South Soudan

July 1, 2021

The trial and conviction, in 2015-2016, of the former Chadian president, Mr. Hisséne Habré, was hailed as a turning point for the justice system in Africa. Coming at a time when Africa had conflicting relations with the International Criminal Court, the African Union’s (AU) decision to set up a hybrid criminal court to try a former head of state was a historic example of leadership in promoting accountability for international crimes at the regional level. It demonstrates the regional organization’s determination to fight against impunity for international crimes in Africa.


Established in Senegal, the ad hoc Extraordinary African Chambers (EACs) worked within a budget and in a short period to bring justice to victims who had been waiting for over 25 years for their tormentor to be brought to justice. The ruling, based on both international and Senegalese laws, found Habré guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture, including several charges involving sexual violence. The conviction was upheld on appeal, except for Habré’s individual criminal responsibility for rape[1].

The EACs’ contribution to international criminal justice is presently an undeniable reality that calls into question the usual North/South dynamics of global justice. The Chambers have created a new form of cooperation that brings together both local and international expertise. The tribunal applied International Criminal Law and Senegalese legal procedure, thus attesting to Africa’s significant contribution to global efforts to combat impunity.

Some publications have already been produced[2] on the functioning and impact of the EACs, the importance of the Habré case, and the place and role of the victims. This publication[3] is an essential addition to the existing literature. It broadens the reflection on the contribution of the EACs in the administration of international and regional criminal justice. To publicize this publication and capitalize on the practices of the EACs in terms of learning process, speediness, and establishment of an African international criminal court, Trust Africa will invite experts in international criminal law, practitioners, activists, and members of civil society to discuss how EACs can influence the strengthening and improvement of accountability mechanisms on the continent by using South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) as references.


Since 2013, the Central African Republic has experienced a political crisis that plunged the country into unprecedented chaos. A coalition of Muslim rebels known as the Seleka had carried out a coup d’état against the Bozize government. This coup d’état led to an ethnic and religious civil war between the Seleka – made up of Muslims living in the north of the country – and the anti-Balaka group made up of Christians living in the south of the country. Thousands died with 400,000 persons registered as refugees and 23,000 as displaced persons [4]. Sporadic battles broke out which led to gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Many of these armed conflicts culminated in communal massacres, extorsions, sexual violence committed by rebels and MINUSCA personnel. The central government now controls half of the country while the other half is controlled by terrorist militia groups, even in the capital Bangui. No-go zones have been created, thus favoring the creation of the Special Criminal Court (SCC) of the CAR by Organic Law No. 15-0003 of June 3, 2015[5]. However, the SCC has long been criticized for the slowness of its implementation and its rather unimpressive track record[6].

In other words, in the Central African Republic, there has been slowness in the effective take-off of the Court’s activities and in the handling of proceedings. In view of this, EACs can be seen as an example of good practices, hence the interest in learning from its rich experience[7].

General objective: To validate the study on the Habré Case and capitalize on the court’s achievements.

Specific objectives:

  • Present and validate the study on the Habré Case.
  • Revisit Africa’s contributions to international criminal justice.
  • Review the Special Criminal Court activities in Central African Republic based on lessons learnt from the Hisséne Habré Case.

Expected results

  • Validation of the study on the Habré Case;
  • Analysis of Africa’s contribution to the International Criminal Court.
  • Recommendations to the Special Criminal Court in CAR based on lessons learnt from the Habré Case.


The webinar will provide a platform for academics and activists from the civil society in Africa and from the Central African Republic to discuss the potential contribution of the EACs to the establishment and evolution of SCCs in the Central African Republic.

A draft document prepared by the principal researcher will be shared with workshop participants. It is expected that all participants will review the document and make their contributions to enrich the discussions. The final document will then be published probably in August 2021.


To ensure efficiency, we have identified key partners involved in the implementation and theoretical elaboration of international criminal justice. Thus, judicial actors, university professors, members of the association of victims of international crimes, civil society actors, and researchers are invited to the workshops.



[1] Extraordinary African Chambers, The Public Prosecutor against Hissein Habré, Decision (Extraordinary African Chambers Appeals Chamber), April 27, 2017, online

[2] Sharon Weill, Kim Thuy Seelinger and Kerstin Carlson, The President on Trial: Prosecuting Hissène Habré, Oxford University Press, 2020; William Schabas, « The Senegal’s Chambres africaines extraordinaires to judge Habré » (2013); online: africaines.html. Ndiaye Ndeye Amy, « The Habre trial and the Malabo Protocole, an emerging African criminal justice ? », in Weill, Seelinger and Carlson, Oxford University 2020. Williams Sarah, “The Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese Courts. An African solution to an African problem?” (2013) 11:5, Journal of International Criminal Justice etc.

[3] In reference to the publication on the Habré Case, the Subject of the Presentation.

[4] Documentary « 5 minutes pour comprendre : que se passe-t-il aujourd’hui en République centrafricaine ? », Médecin sans frontiéres, 2017.

[5] For more information, visit:,

[6] (Gaël Grilhot)

[7] (Gaël Grilhot)

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