In This Review

To Catch a Dictator: The Pursuit and Trial of Hissène Habré
To Catch a Dictator: The Pursuit and Trial of Hissène Habré
By Reed Brody
Columbia University Press, 2022, 296 pp.

Hissène Habré’s tenure as president of Chad lasted from 1982 to 1990 and was marked by large-scale human rights abuses. But well over a decade after he was deposed in a coup and exiled to Senegal, it seemed likely he would escape responsibility for his record in office. Brody, a longtime lawyer with Human Rights Watch, tells the story of how a broad coalition of human rights activists, lawyers, and victims of Habré’s violence conducted a 25-year campaign to bring the dictator to justice. The book makes for great reading. Brody provides just enough detail of Habré’s grisly rule to sketch the extent of his human rights abuses but moves quickly to an engrossing blow-by-blow account of the international campaign that began in 2000 and would end in a courtroom in Dakar in May 2016, when Habré was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, and the killing of over 40,000 citizens. He was sentenced to life in prison. Brody provides fascinating insights into the nature of such an international legal coalition, the larger-than-life personalities involved, and their inevitable arguments over tactics.