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Cannes film spotlights Chad's 'torture chambers'

Cannes film spotlights Chad's 'torture chambers'


AFP
FRANCE
THERE is a heart-stopping moment in a new documentary about the survivors of Chadian dictator Hissene Habre's torture chambers, when one of the torturers kneels down in front of his victim and begs for forgiveness.
"I had to follow orders," mumbles"Mahamat the Cameroonian" -- now a broken man himself living on the streets as an outcast.
"Then why did you have to beat me so badly?" his victim asks, handing the former gendarme the rubber pipe he used to flail his prisoner's leg to a pulp.
"Your superiors told you to stop, but you went on and on," adds the man, who lost the leg.
The scene is typical of the muted but unflinching encounters that fill"Hissein Habre, A Chadian Tragedy", Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's quietly dignified film about one of Africa's least known mass killings, which premieres at the Cannes film festival Monday.
Some 40,000 people were murdered during Habre's eight-year reign of terror, a Chadian commission concluded, while the West looked the other way, more worried about the Cold War and Moamer Kadhafi in neighbouring Libya.
Habre was their ally and American and French money even paid for the country's political police, the feared DDS, to torture on an industrial scale, said Clement Abaifouta, who leads a survivors' group in the capital N'Djamena.
The group has spent 15 years trying to bring the former rebel leader -- who was deposed in 1990 -- to trial. Habre will finally be judged later this month at a special tribunal in neighbouring Senegal, where he had fled into exile.
One of the victims featured in the film, Adimatcho Djamai, who was tortured so badly he spent more than two decades on the flat of his back in a corrugated iron shack, died the day he was due to testify at Habre's trial.
Haroun told AFP he wanted to cast a light on what he calls"this genocide" largely ignored by the outside world"because it was some business of the blacks" carried out behind closed doors.