Law professor Nicole Barrett oversees trial of Chad government agents accused of murder and torture

Nicole Barrett, a UBC law professor specializing in human rights and criminal law, has been overseeing a trial of former Chad government agents accused of mass murder and torture.

The trial, which began on November 14, is looking at the evidence against 21 government agents who served for Hissène Habré, the president of Chad from 1982 to 1990.

Various international human rights groups estimate that a total of 40,000 people were killed during Habré’s eight-year presidency. Saleh Younous, former director of Habré’s political police force, is one of the agents being tried at the trial.

According to a Reuters article, each of the 21 agents have pled ‘not guilty’ to the charges at the beginning of the trial.

Barrett, who is also director of the Joint International Justice and Human Rights Clinic at UBC and York University, has previously overseen trials for the former Yugoslavia and served as a legal advisor for people who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay.

Along with York University Law student Eleonore Gauthier, Barrett had been in Chad from January 10 to 19 to monitor that the trial was being conducted in accordance with international standards.

According to Barrett, the trial is a particularly difficult and important one, as families of the people killed had waited many years in order to receive a sense of closure and justice for the victims.

“The victims’ families are attending the trial as well, so the courtroom is filled with emotion,” said Barrett in a statement. “They have been campaigning for 24 years to see Habré and his accomplices face justice.”

Barrett also said that, as the trial is being conducted at the national level rather than at The Hague or other international courts, it will set a precedent for future countries holding their former leaders accountable through their own judicial systems.

“If the trial meets international standards, the regime’s victims will finally begin to regain a sense of dignity after more than two decades,” said Barrett. “If fair trial standards are compromised it will be yet another insult to the victims and their families.”

The trial, which is being monitored by the Human Rights Association, is expected to continue until the end of January.