The rights of human beings continue to be violated because the perpetrators of the most atrocious acts enjoy total impunity. The fight against impunity which I lead and which I will win by the Grace of God, is the result of my decision to take the side of those who suffer and whose cries continue to be ignored by the decision makers.
From the Citation
“… for her tireless efforts at great personal risk to win justice for the victims of the former dictatorship in Chad and to increase awareness and observance of human rights in Africa.”
Jacqueline Moudeina is a lawyer who works fearlessly to bring the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to justice making sure that those who committed crimes do not go unpunished. At the same time, she works on a wide range of human rights issues concerning Chad today. With her commitment to justice as prerequisite for reconciliation and her dedication to intervene from the grassroots level up to international jurisdiction, she has made a prominent and crucial contribution to winning respect for human rights in Africa.
Jacqueline Moudeina was born in 1957 and was studying English at the University of Chad in 1979 when civil war broke out and she and her husband fled to the Congo, where she stayed for 13 years, completing a law degree at the University of Brazzaville.
The civil war was followed by a reign of terror from 1982-90 by the new President, Hissène Habré, and his one-party rule. In 1990, Habré fled to Senegal. A truth commission later established that Habré’s government was responsible for 40,000 politically motivated killings and published the names of the security service agents who had tortured and killed thousands according to their own police files. Many of those former security service agents on the list got high-ranking positions again in the next government.
Moudeina returned to Chad in 1995 and registered as a legal intern – among the first women in Chad to do so. She became legal secretary and then, in 2004, President of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (French acronym ATPDH).
Moudeina worked on human rights cases and, with survivors of the Habré years, began collecting evidence on his atrocities. In 2000, when other Chadian lawyers had refused to become involved, she filed a case against Habré in Senegal, where he was living in luxury, and against his security agents in the Chad courts. In 2001, while Moudeina was engaged in a peaceful demonstration, police commanded by a man indicted in the atrocities case threw a grenade and shot at her. She narrowly escaped with her life.
The Legal Case against Former President Habré
When Moudeina had filed the case against against Habré in Senegal on behalf of seven victims in 2000, a Senegalese judge indicted him for complicity in acts of torture and barbarity and opened an investigation against persons unknown for crimes against humanity. Habré’s lawyers attacked the indictment and, in 2001, the Senegalese High Court threw out the case as being outside Senegalese jurisdiction. Thus, the victims turned to Belgium, as Belgium had a law under which anybody who committed torture worldwide could be tried. After five years, the investigating judge in Belgium charged Habré with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide and put out an international arrest warrant against him. Belgium requested the extradition of Habré from Senegal. Habré was arrested for ten days, but the prosecutor at the Senegalese appeal court declared himself incompetent to rule on the extradition request.
Senegalese President Wade then called the case an African issue and put it before the African Union. So the African Union, still in 2005, asked Senegal to prosecute Habré in the name of Africa because no African head of state should be judged outside of Africa. Senegal requested funding to cover the trial costs, which international donors, among them the EU, pledged. Despite all this, Senegal seemed to be taking the case forward as slowly as possible and finally, in 2011, declared that it would not stage a trial against the dictator. Thus, Moudeina is now working towards his extradition to Belgium.
While driving the case against Habré internationally, Jacqueline Moudeina is also representing the victims of his dictatorship as their lawyer.
International criminal law is still a trial and error process. Moudeina has proved to be a pioneer on the ground, she has been innovative, never tiring of seeking new paths, and stands today as a role model for developing international legal practice from inside a country affected by grave violations of human rights.
The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH)
ATPDH employs nine people, but has 90 volunteers working in the ten regional chapters of the organisation.
ATDPH works towards the following objectives:
- People know their rights, claim and defend them.
- The rights of prisoners are respected.
- The dignity of women is respected.
- Children rights are respected.
- Impunity is reduced.
- Torture decreases.
To achieve these objectives, ATDPH is running a number of programmes including:
- Creation of a national monitoring system on prison conditions, which includes training prisoners and prison wardens
- Working against the slavery of children who are sold in markets to work as agricultural labourers by creating “circles of vigilance”
- Awareness-raising for human rights, e.g. through a bimonthly paper “Le Rougeau” and leaflets in French and Arabic on torture, Aids, or the rights of prisoners
- Educational programs in the regional chapters on human rights, and women rights, such as educating about legal means to prevent child marriage
- Seeking compensation for environmental damage from the Chad Cameroon Oil and Pipeline Project.
ATPDH is a member of the Commission of Associations of Human Rights in Tchad, and engages in joint activities with its other members. ATPDH also works closely with the Chadian League for Human Rights (LTDH) and other local organisations. Internationally, ATPDH works intensively with Human Rights Watch.
Moudeina has a reputation of working together with those who create a problem rather than polarising. By this approach, she is able to work out solutions and to make progress. For example, although it is mandatory to attend a public school in Tchad, many parents prefer to send their children to Islamic schools. ATPDH has worked out a scheme with Islamic schools to allow the children to attend a certain number of hours per week in the local public school to obtain elementary training in subjects such as maths and French. By inclusion, Moudeina creates solutions that are sustainable and a start for long-term improvements.
In 2002, Moudeina received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.