Haiti's Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean ruled Monday that former president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will not stand trial for crimes against humanity, including torture, false imprisonment, rape and murder during his reign between 1971 and 1986. Jean dismissed the charges reasoning that there are not sufficient legal grounds and that the statute of limitations has expired. Based on this ruling, Duvalier will go on trial before a special court facing charges of corruption and misappropriation of public funds with at most 5-year imprisonment. Jean's ruling has not been made public. Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; press report] and the UN have criticized [press release] this ruling stating that there are sufficient evidence for the charges against human rights violations and that under international law statute of limitations is not applicable:
It is clear under international law that there is no statute of limitations for such crimes, and the UN Human Rights office has provided technical assistance and legal advice stressing this point. We are extremely disappointed at reports that Mr. Duvalier may not be charged with any human rights crimes, despite numerous complaints by victims to the prosecutor. Impunity for such serious crimes cannot be allowed to prevail and we urge the relevant authorities to ensure that justice is, belatedly, delivered to the many victims of human rights abuses committed under the government of Mr. Duvalier. There can be no true reconciliation and forgiveness without justice.The charges were initiated last January by more than 20 victims after Duvalier returned from his exile in France. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] and other organizations expressed their plan to appeal the judgment.
Haiti has been urged numerous times by different organizations to improve its human rights records and to try Duvalier for his crimes against humanity. In September, AI urged [JURIST report] the Haitin government to prosecute Duvalier after its release of a report [report, PDF] documenting crimes committed during the former president's reign. The findings were the result of an eight-month investigation [JURIST report]. In July, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Kyung-Wha Kang [official website] pressed Haiti [JURIST report] to establish a system of human rights and equality, especially by speeding up the case against Duvalier. He was accused of crimes against humanity and corruption [JURIST reports] in January of last year.