Global Voices "The Dictator Hunter" on PBS World

Global Voices "The Dictator Hunter" on PBS World

Wed, 07/21/2010 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm
Pictured: Reed Brody with a world map showing the dictators around the world.

Credit: Courtesy of Klaartje Quirins/ITVS

A revealing look at the determination of one American lawyer to bring a Chadian dictator to international justice.

One of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century, Hissène Habré, tortured the people of Chad for eight years before he fled. Reed Brody, an American lawyer and son of a Holocaust survivor, along with a Chadian survivor, Souleymane, fight against all odds to bring Habré to justice. Along the way Brody and Souleymane make personal sacrifices in fighting for their ideals.

Global Voices "The Dictator Hunter" encores Wednesday, July 21 at 9 p.m. on PBS World (cable 524/DT21.2).

“If you kill one person, you go to jail. If you kill 40 people, they put you in an insane asylum. But if you kill 40,000 people, you get a comfortable exile with a bank account in another country, and that’s what we want to change here.” —Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch

With the arrest warrant against the president of Sudan for atrocities in Darfur and the extradition of Charles Taylor of Liberia, “international justice” seems once again to be on the world’s agenda as the ultimate hope to stop the cycle of impunity. One of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century is the little-known Hissene Habré, who tortured the people of Chad for eight years before fleeing to Senegal. Reed Brody, an American lawyer, along with one of Habré’s victims, Souleymane Guengueng, fight against all odds to bring the African ex-dictator to justice.

Dutch filmmaker Klaartje Quirijns follows Brody around the world as the lawyer’s determination to bring the former dictator to justice intensifies. Quirijns is there with him to capture on film the historic decision made by African Union presidents that Senegal must prosecute their old colleague Habré for human rights crimes “in the name of Africa.” 

Inside Reed Brody’s office is a map covered with pictures of the most notorious of the world’s leaders who are going unpunished for their crimes against humanity. The son of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, Brody has spent the last 10 years spearheading a campaign to get the former dictator Habré tried or extradited. He has visited the places of torture, heard the firsthand accounts of widows who still mourn, and seen the physical and emotional effects the torture still has on the victims, who cry out for justice. With his help, Chadian victims filed a criminal complaint against Habré, who was then arrested in Dakar in 2000.

While politicians drag their feet to bring Habré to justice, Brody and Guengueng navigate around them as if they were chess pieces in the world of international justice. When Senegal dithers, Brody files charges against Habré in Belgium, which then asks Senegal for Habré’s extradition. When Senegal refers the case to the African Union, Brody convinces the leaders to agree to bring one of their own to justice. The result is years in the making, but sends the historic message to victims that justice is possible.

Today, more than 18 years after Habré’s removal from power, his victims are still waiting for him to face justice in Senegal. The investigation and trial are at a standstill as Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade threatens to allow Habré to leave Senegal if international donors do not provide Senegal with $35 million in trial costs. In February, faced with Senegal’s dithering, Belgium took the extraordinary step of asking the World Court to order Senegal to either prosecute or extradite Habré.