Posted: 06 February 2013
Former Haitian leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc”, must not be allowed to evade justice for alleged crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said today on the eve of his appeal hearing.
Relatives of those who were illegally executed or disappeared and survivors of torture committed during Duvalier’s time in power (1971-1986) are hoping tomorrow’s hearing will overturn a previous decision to not investigate the former leader’s alleged responsibility for the crimes. Victims and their families must receive reparations for the human rights abuses suffered, Amnesty said.
In January 2012, the investigating judge assigned to the case decided to try the former leader only for embezzlement of public funds, claiming the crimes against humanity for which he was accused had expired under a statute of limitations in Haitian law.
Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International, said:
“International human rights standards are very clear in cases such as this. Crimes including torture, executions, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances are not subject to a statute of limitations and the alleged perpetrators cannot benefit from pardons or amnesties.”
Lawyers representing victims of human rights violations complained about several procedural failures in the way the appeal has been dealt with so far, including the fact that not all plaintiffs had been notified of the hearings.
The appeal court hearing is due to take place on 7 February, having previously been postponed when Jean-Claude Duvalier failed to appear in court on 31 January.
Despite having being placed under house arrest during the investigation, Jean-Claude Duvalier continues to take part in public events accompanied by his lawyers and supporters. In early January 2013 it was reported that he had been granted a diplomatic passport.
Several public statements from current president Michel Martelly have also hinted at pardoning Duvalier. All this casts serious doubt on the will of the Haitian authorities to address the total impunity which still shrouds the crimes against humanity committed during Jean-Claude Duvalier’s time in power.
Javier Zúñiga said:
“With the case of Jean Claude Duvalier, it is the whole credibility of the Haitian justice system which is at stake. Only by respecting the procedures in the appeal case, including thoroughly examining all evidence and hearing all the victims, will the court be able to demonstrate the professionalism and independence of the Haitian justice system.”
The day of the hearing is also the 27th anniversary of Jean Claude Duvalier’s flight into exile in 1986, which brought to an end the 28 year rule of the Duvalier family. Jean Claude’s father François Duvalier came to power in 1957.