World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Haiti: Ex-dictator Duvalier evades justice

15 January 2014
Haiti: Lack of political will allows ex-dictator Duvalier to escape justice

A lack of political will and unacceptable court delays are allowing Haiti’s former“president-for-life,” Jean-Claude Duvalier, to escape justice for human rights violations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities re-opened a criminal case against the former Haitian dictator three years ago, shortly after he returned to the country on 16 January 2011, following a 25-year exile in France. He faced charges of serious human rights violations such as murder and torture of political opponents, and of corruption. But the case has stalled for almost a year.

“It appears that the Haitian authorities have no intention of carrying out thorough investigations into Duvalier-era abuses,” said Javier Zúñiga, Amnesty International’s special adviser to regional programmes.

“The judicial process has stalled, denying victims of his reign of terror their right to truth, justice and reparation. To add insult to injury, Duvalier continues to take part in public events, often at the invitation of the Haitian government.”

Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” inherited power from his father, the dictator François Duvalier, and ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986. During his rule, Haitian life was marked by systematic human rights violations.

Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons known as the “triangle of death”, including the infamous Fort Dimanche, died from mistreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings. Duvalier’s government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, in some cases tortured, jailed, and forced to leave the country.

He is also alleged to have embezzled between $300 million and $800 million of assets during his presidency.

In January 2012, an investigating judge ruled that Duvalier should stand trial before a lower court for misappropriation of public funds, but that the statute of limitations had expired on the human rights crimes he was accused of. Both the human rights victims and Duvalier appealed the decision. The appeal began on 13 December 2012.

Duvalier appeared before the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince on 28 February 2013, for the first time giving public testimony related to alleged crimes during his rule.

“In a country in which impunity for the worst crimes has been the norm, Duvalier’s presence in the court was a glimmer of hope for the victims and their families,” said Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson at Human Rights Watch.

“The Haitian authorities have an obligation to prosecute these grave human rights violations. Crimes including torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances are not subject to a statute of limitations.”

Between March and May 2013, eight victims gave testimony in court despite objections from Duvalier’s lawyers, who have filed an appeal in an effort to prevent the victims’ from exercising their right to participate in the proceedings as civil parties. Victims also faced the hostility of the public prosecutor who seemed to have aligned with the defense.

Testimony concluded in May, and the Court of Appeal’s decision has been pending ever since. Multiple sources have told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the Court of Appeal is waiting for some other procedural steps to be carried out before issuing its ruling.

“Under Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes militia, thousands were tortured, killed, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile,” said Reed Brody.

“Duvalier’s victims shouldn’t have to keep waiting and hoping for justice that never comes.”

While the victims await the Court’s decision, Duvalier has been taking part in public events. Most recently, on 1 January 2014, he attended a state ceremony to celebrate Independence Day in the city of Gonaïves.

Former president Prosper Avril, a close Duvalier ally who came to power following a military coup in 1988 and ruled until 1990, also was there. President Michel Martelly justified Duvalier’s and Avril’s invitations as important to promote national reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is not possible without justice, truth, and reparations,” said Javier Zúñiga.

“This move is seen by many as a blatant attempt by the Haitian authorities to rehabilitate this former dictator, and it only adds insult and injury to the thousands of victims of Duvalier’s rule.”

Background information
An Amnesty International report, You Cannot Kill the Truth: The Case Against Jean-Claude Duvalier, revisits the organization’s previous research on widespread and systematic human rights abuses committed in Haiti in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Human Rights Watch report, Haiti's Rendez-vous With History: The Case of Jean-Claude Duvalier, examines the legal and practical questions surrounding the case and concludes that Haiti had an obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute the grave violations of human rights under Duvalier’s rule.

AI Index: PRE01/013/2014

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Myanmar Election: UNICEF Urges Prioritisation Of Children

With 99 days to go before Myanmar elections, UNICEF urges candidates make children the clear winner More>>

Liberia Thousands Of Unregistered Children Born During Ebola Crisis

Thousands of unregistered children born in Liberia during Ebola crisis at risk of exploitation – UNICEF More>>

UN Refugee Agency Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Myanmar

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt (left) in Myitkyina township, Kachin State, Myanmar, meeting with some of the 100,000 displaced people who currently live there. Photo: UNHCR/T.Stoddart More>>

As Health Needs Rise In Somalia, Funding Hits New Low

As health needs rise in Somalia, funding hits new low, cutting off 1.5 million from care – UN More>>

Need To End Violence Against Children In Conflict

‘We should be outraged’ more not being done to end violence against children in conflict – UNICEF chief More>>

On Mandela Day, UN Joins Call To Promote Community Service

Nelson Mandela, then Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran More>>

Some $3.2 Billion Needed For Ebola Recovery Efforts

Some $3.2 billion needed for Ebola recovery efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – UN More>>

World Day: UN Spotlights Plight Of Vulnerable Populalations

Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting near the Syrian city of Kobani wait in a holding area before boarding buses in Turkey (September 2014). Photo: UNHCR /I. Prickett More>>

Afghanisatan: Direct Talks Between Government And Taliban

The United Nations Security Council has welcomed the recently held direct talks between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives as a step towards “peace and reconciliation” in the region. More>>

Eradicating World Hunger By 2030

Agriculture workers collect carrots on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann More>>

Bangladesh: Flood Leads To UN Agency Providing Food Relief

Anwar Hossain unloads cartons of High Energy Biscuits from a pickup truck and transfers them to a distribution center in Kawar Khop union, Ramu upazila, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: WFP/Kamrul Mithon More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news