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Rights groups urge Haiti to pursue case against Jean-Claude Duvalier

Amnesty International (AI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) on Wednesday called upon Haiti to ensure that Jean-Claude Duvalier [CBC profile; JURIST news archive] is brought to justice. Duvalier returned to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years in exile, prompting an investigation [BBC report] for crimes he committed from 1971-1986. Both groups stated [AI press release; OSJI press release] that Duvalier must not "evade justice" for crimes against humanity he committed during his time in power from 1971-1986. James Goldstein, executive director of OSJI said that Haiti is required to bring charges under international law. Javier Zuniga of AI has argued that Duvalier's particular alleged crimes, which include torture, executions, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances are not subject to statute of limitations under international and stated that "the whole credibility of the Haitian justice system" is at stake in Duvalier's prosecution. The statements from AI and OSJI come one year after Haiti's Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean ruled [JURIST report] that Duvalier would not stand trial for his crimes against humanity because of insufficient legal grounds and the expiration of the statute of limitations.

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 urged 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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