Chadians anticipate a flare-up of emotions as Cannes Films releases a new film documenting painful facts about torture chambers that existed during Hissein Habre’s repressive eight-year reign.
In one of the most unbearable moments in the documentary, which premieres at the upcoming Cannes Film Festivals on Monday, a former torturer kneels down in front of one of his victims and begs him for forgiveness.
“I had to follow orders,” murmurs the torturer, identified as “Mahamat the Cameroonian” – now an outcast surviving on the streets of Chad.
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“Then why did you have to beat me so badly? Your superiors told you to stop but you went on and on,” his victim asks, handing him the rubber pipe he used to thrash his prisoner’s leg to shreds.
The documentary, Hissien Habre: A Chadian Tragedy, compiles a series of tragic experiences that innocent victims underwent in Chad’s torture chambers during Hissien Habre’s rule, which left at least 40,000 people dead, according to local human rights groups.
Habre, who rose to power in 1982 after ousting President Goukouni Oueddei in a coup, faces serious charges of mass murder, torture and other crimes against humanity. Although Habre denies being involved in torturing and killing tens of thousands of his opponents, his rule was dented by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities.
Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and the International Court of Justice have already charged him with issuing orders to kill thousands of his political opponents.
The former President of Chad was arrested in Senegal in 2013, where he fled following his ouster in 1990 by the incumbent President Idris Déby.
Habre is currently being tried in Senegal by a tribunal formed in 2012 by the African Union. All judges in the tribunal were appointed by the AU; none of them comes from Chad or Senegal.
At the beginning of his trial in July 2015, Habre is reported to have shouted:
“Down with imperialists. The trial is a farce by rotten Senegalese politicians. African traitors. Valet of America.”
After the emotional outburst, Habre was ejected from the courtroom, and the trial had to continue in his absence.
Current Political Situation in Chad
Almost three decades after Habre was ousted, Chad is still struggling with authoritarianism and impunity, according to Amnesty International.
In a recent report published by Amnesty International, President Déby’s government has been accused of arbitrary arrests, forced disappearance, torture and detention of opposition parliamentarians, journalists and bloggers.
There have also been rumors of a possible coup following disputed elections in April this year, which the incumbent won by 62 percent of the total vote. The Chadian opposition later refuted the results, accusing the country’s electoral body of bias.