Chad – FAQs

State Coordinated Violence in Chad under Hissène Habré — [Français]

  • Q: What are the principal findings in this report?

    A: This report analyzes a collection of internal documents from the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), a state security force that operated notorious prisons during the 1982–1990 regime of former Chadian President Hissène Habré. Based on these documents, the report makes three main findings:

    – Large-scale human rights violations were carried out inside the DDS prisons.
    – Both President Habré and the Director of the DDS were well informed of DDS operations.
    – There was a superior-subordinate relationship between President Habré and the DDS leadership.

  • Q: What is the evidence of human rights violations committed in DDS prisons?

    A: Analysis of the DDS records, which include prison Situation Journals and prisoner death certificates, revealed that the mortality rate within the DDS prisons varied from 30 per 1,000 to 87 per 1,000 prisoners. This rate is substantially higher than the crude mortality rate of Chad in the 1970’s and 1990’s which was less than 25 per 1,000. The death rate for the whole of Chad, unlike DDS prison mortality, is mainly driven by high infant mortality.

  • Q: What is the evidence that Habré and the DDS leadership is responsible for these violations?

    A: President Habré and the DDS leadership were well informed of the activities of the DDS. They received regular communication from the DDS, including details of torture and deaths in detention. Habré received at least 1,265 direct communications that concerned about 898 DDS detainees. The pattern of communication flow from the DDS to the president is more direct than that from standard government ministries and suggests direct oversight. President Habré and the Director of the DDS had direct authority for the promotions and transfers of the senior DDS leadership.

    The report concludes that the discovered DDS documents contain evidence which is consistent with the hypothesis that the policies and practices of Habré, and senior DDS officials whom Habré appointed, contributed to deaths in custody on a level substantially higher than the adult mortality rate of Chad at the time.

  • Q: Where did the internal DDS documents come from?

    A: The DDS files were discovered by chance by Human Rights Watch in 2001 at the abandoned DDS headquarters in N’Djamena.

  • Q: How does the analysis in this report contribute to the case against Hissène Habré?

    A: This analysis draws heavily on official records of the DDS, which were recovered from the former DDS headquarters in 2001 by a team of investigators from Human Rights Watch. Our findings are based on thousands of administrative documents, created by the DDS to facilitate its prison operations. The documents also provided bureaucratic oversight of secret police operations by both the Director of the DDS and his immediate superior, President Hissène Habré.

    The HRDAG analysis complements both earlier qualitative findings by historians and area experts, as well as victim and survivor testimony collected by a number of local and international human rights groups. HRDAG’s quantitative analysis and graphical visualizations provide valuable insight into the human rights violations conducted by the DDS and the administrative practices by the DDS and Habré which led to these outcomes. This analysis provides an opportunity to place individual victim, survivor and eyewitness testimonies collected by human rights organizations in context and to engage larger questions about accountability.

  • Q: Is this analysis likely to be used in the legal proceedings against Hissène Habré?

    A: Yes. If Habré stands trial, this analysis is likely to be used as evidence. The claimants submitted the HRDAG report in 2008 to a Senegalese prosecutor as potential evidence in the case against Habré. This analysis addresses the responsibility of individual commanders for human rights violations using administrative documents created by the DDS themselves. HRDAG’s statistical techniques engage key parts of the complaints against Habré.

  • Q: In this report, do you make statistical estimates of the number of people who were killed by Hissène Habré’s state security force, the DDS?

    A: No. Given the nature and amount of information retrieved from the DDS, we are unable to make formal statistical inferences about the estimated total magnitude of killings committed by the DDS, let alone deaths attributable to Habré between 1982 and 1990. In order to make such statistical estimates, we would need to have a complete administrative record of all DDS and presidential records, or access to multiple sources which document deaths attributable to the State. Alternately, researchers would need to carry out a retrospective mortality survey of victims’ families in order to arrive at these statistical estimates.

    From our analysis of the retrieved documents, we are able to infer conclusions about the existence of routine and ad-hoc communication – and knowledge of DDS policies and practices by the DDS senior leadership and the office of the President. Our findings, that the DDS leadership and President Habré’s office were well informed of DDS activities, raise serious questions about claims that Habré was unaware of and distant from DDS operations.

  • Q: Do you make legal findings about command responsibility within the DDS during Habré’s presidency?

    A: No. We make no legal findings, as our analysis is not a legal opinion or legal analysis. We do, however, draw on the international legal doctrine of Command Responsibility to frame our quantitative analysis of official document flow and communications within the DDS.

  • Q: What is HRDAG’s relationship to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs involved in the case against Hissène Habré ?

    A: HRDAG is an independent, scientific organization which analyzes empirical data about large-scale human rights violations. HRDAG researchers use defensible statistical methods to generate findings about crimes against humanity. HRDAG’s partnership with Human Rights Watch is focused on helping HRW and its coalition partners draw on HRDAG’s scientific expertise to analyze available information about human rights violations during the presidential reign of Hissène Habré. HRDAG does not engage in any advocacy or legal work. HRDAG’s contribution to this project has been focused exclusively on engaging relevant human rights policy questions with available data and scientific methods.

  • Q: What are the next steps in the case against Habré ?

    A: Habré has been living in exile in Senegal since his ouster from Chad in 1990. After years of political negotiations and stalling, in 2012 Senegal reached an agreement with the African Union to set up a special court to try Habré in Dakar, with the proceedings broadcast in Chad. The trial is expected to begin in 2013.




Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.