Victims of Gambia’s former leader Yahya Jammeh said on Wednesday their hunt for justice had been boosted by meeting people who had suffered under Chad’s ex-ruler Hissene Habre and had helped bring him to account for war crimes in a landmark case.
Three of Habre’s victims – who were all jailed while he was leader – travelled to Gambia last week to speak to 15 people who say they or their relatives were detained, tortured or killed under Jammeh’s 22-year rule, which ended in January.
The meeting came just days before an appeals court in Senegal upheld a life sentence for Habre for war crimes and crimes against humanity, marking the end of a 17-year fight by his victims and human rights groups to bring him to justice.
“They were open about the fight they went through and told us how difficult the journey was to obtain justice,” said Baba Hydara, son of reporter Deyda Hydara, whose unexplained killing in 2004 has never been fully investigated, rights groups say.
“Us Gambian victims face the same path, so it was important for us to understand what we are preparing for … it is a long road ahead, we know it could take many, many years,” Hydara, also a journalist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Habre, 74, was sentenced last year for ordering the killing and torture of thousands of political opponents during his eight-year rule. He fled to Senegal after being ousted in a 1990 Coup.
His sentencing represents the first time in modern history that one African country’s domestic courts have prosecuted the former leader of another on rights charges.