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Haiti court orders former president Duvalier to appear at human rights hearing

An appeals court judge in Haiti on Thursday ordered former president Jean-Claude Duvalier [CBC profile; JURIST news archive] to face charges of abusing human rights. Duvalier returned to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years in exile, prompting an investigation [BBC report] for crimes he committed from 1971-1986. Last January a magistrate judge dismissed human rights charges against Duvalier [JURIST report], including allegations of rape, torture and murder, on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. Twenty victims of Duvalier's reign initiated the charges and appealed the case after it was dismissed. At the hearing on Thursday, appeals court judge Jean Joseph Lebrun rejected Duvalier's argument [Reuters report] that the victims did not follow proper procedure, and ordered Duvalier to appear in court to face the charges. Duvalier's hearing is scheduled for February 21.

Earlier this week Amnesty International and the Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy websites] urged Haiti to ensure that Duvalier is brought to justice [JURIST report]. Last February the US State Department [official website] dispatched [JURIST report] a team of international law experts to Haiti to assess how the country could reinforce the power and independence of its judiciary. That same month, UN Independent Expert Micael Forst said that Haiti is making significant progress [JURIST report] with respect to the rule of law, citing improvements such as the establishment of judicial offices and the adoption of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [text; PDF]. In January 2012 a Haitian judge convicted [JURIST report] eight police officers of shooting and killing at least 10 prisoners following the January 2010 earthquake. In December 2011 the UN called for an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged torture and unlawful killings perpetrated by the Haitian National Police (HNP) [official website, in French].

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