(OLDIE!) Review: “The Trial of Hissène Habré: How the People of Chad Brought a Tyrant to Justice” – Celeste Hicks

(This is an OLDIE – an old review from years ago! My views and opinions might have changed since then.)

In 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) found Chad’s former warlord dictator, Hissene Habre, who seized power in 1982 with the support of the U.S. and France, guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. Habre is the first former head of state to be convicted for human rights abuses in the court of another nation.

Celeste Hicks, in her book “The Trial of Hissene Habre: How the People of Chad brought a Tyrant to Justice,” documents the grassroots organizing that brought Habre to trial after more than 20-years of living lavishly in exile, the trial proceedings, and the wider implications of the trial for international human rights law.

The latter part of her analysis — the implications of the trial and conviction of Habre vis-à-vis international human rights law — is simultaneously the author’s greatest strength and weakness. On the one hand, the author raises valid criticisms of the ICC’s failure to charge non-Africans, ICC controversies in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and the DRC, and the strengths and weaknesses of ‘hybrid’ courts such as the EAC. On the other hand, Hicks, having worked for many years in Africa as a BBC correspondent, parrots the line of Western imperialism, especially with regards to supposed international crimes committed by Libya’s Gaddafi, Syria’s Assad, and Russia in the Ukraine and Georgia/South Ossetia, and seems to whitewash the crimes of Idriss Deby, the current President of Chad and Habre’s former commander-in-chief and military adviser.

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