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NGOs NGOs voices Jacqueline Moudeina: “Impunity is a cancer that prevents us from realizing our true potential”

Jacqueline Moudeina: “Impunity is a cancer that prevents us from realizing our true potential”

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Jacqueline Moudeina: “Impunity is a cancer that prevents us from realizing our true potential”
Jacqueline Moudeina: “Impunity is a cancer that prevents us from realizing our true potential”
african_diplomacy_jacqueline_moudeinaJacqueline Moudeina is president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH) and has been the lawyer for the victims of the former dictator Hissène Habré since 2000. In 2001, Ms. Moudeina was seriously injured by a grenade thrown by security forces commanded by a former officer in Hissène Habré's political police.

On December 5, 2011, Ms. Moudeina received the Right Livelihood Award 2011, which is considered to be the "Alternative Nobel Prize," "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" (http://www.rightlivelihood.org).

This is her acceptance speech delivered at the Swedish parliament in Stockholm on December 5, 2011.

Jacqueline Moudeina's Remarks for the "Right Livelihood Award"

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by sincerely thanking you for the distinguished honor that you are bestowing upon me through the "Right Livelihood Award." This award recognizes me specifically but, beyond that, rewards all the human rights defenders in the world, and particularly in Africa.

Rest assured that it is a deeply encouraging sign for us, the human rights defenders, and especially for us, the women, who fight on a daily basis, in very difficult conditions, sometimes at the risk of our own lives, in a world where power is generally held by men. This award gives us the courage to continue our different struggles on a road fraught with pitfalls.

Fighting for victims is in my genes. I am a rebel who from an early age has been indignant in the face of abuse, and I cannot bear injustice. I have always felt this way and always will, as long as those who suffer injustice are ignored by their leaders and as long as justice is selective. Many have tried to prevent me from doing my work; many have tried to intimidate me, to psychologically and physically threaten me. But I have come to understand, as Alexis Voinov said in Albert Camus' The Just Assassins, that "it isnot enough to speak out against injustice. You have to dedicate your life to fighting it." Until now, no one has managed to discourage me or get the better of me. I will continue my fight.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will seize this occasion to tell you about one aspect of our struggle for human rights: the fight against impunity.

In the past twenty years, the international community has undeniably made major strides in the fight against impunity for the worst criminals. But in Africa, much remains to be done. On this continent, impunity is a cancer that, with its corollary disease corruption, has infected our body politic and prevents us from realizing our true potential. We, the members of civil society, are fighting against this cancer, from Tunis to Harare, from Dakar to Khartoum, and in other places like Abidjan, Tripoli, and N'Djamena.

And yet, this justice that I am speaking about is not a science in the making. It isn't a utopia. It is the most fundamental form of justice: criminal justice that allows victims to wash away the worst horrors, that gives back dignity to men who were tortured, and that gives back courage to women who have lost hope.

You only need to look at our struggle to bring to justice the former dictator of my country, Hissène Habré, to understand that today, in the twenty-first century, more than sixty years after the Nuremberg trials, it is sometimes easier to resort to oppression than to abide by the law, easier to commit violence than to deliver justice!

Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990 until his overthrow and exile in Senegal. During his reign, atrocities were committed on a large scale, waves of ethnic cleansing crashed down on individual groups, and torture was institutionalized. In 1992, a national Commission of Inquiry estimated that his regime was responsible for the death of more than 40,000 people and the disappearance of thousands of individuals, leaving in its wake innumerable widows and orphans.

The victims of the Habré regime, whom I represent, have fought tirelessly for justice for twenty-one years. But to date their struggle remains unfinished. Before leaving power, Hissène Habré emptied out Chad's national coffers and has skillfully used these funds in Senegal to weave himself a powerful network of protection. And so, instead of allowing the victims' case to be heard, Senegal and the African Union have subjected them to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 117 organizations from twenty-five African countries rightly denounced as an "interminable political and legal soap opera." I would say even more: a true stations of the cross for the victims.

With a few exceptions, African leaders, who say that they want to free themselves of the tutelage of international tribunals and the extradition requests of Western countries, are revealing that they form nothing more than a club of heads of states ensuring their own impunity.

It is time for Senegal to grant victims the justice that they have demanded by extraditing Habré to Belgium where he can be tried. The victims cannot wait any longer. Psychologically and physically, they have suffered severe trauma that has taken a heavy toll over the years.

The Chadian government itself, last July, requested, and I quote, that the "option to extradite Habré to Belgium to face trial be given priority." Why is President Wade denying us justice? Why is the African Union failing to listen to the victims? Why do Senegal and the African Union not support the position of Chad, the country most directly concerned by this case, which is to see Habré tried in Belgium?

I would like to seize this opportunity today to voice the victims' plea, and to call on Senegal to extradite Habré to Belgium, to enable them at last to obtain justice.

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