Haiti authorities urged to prosecute former president

Haiti authorities urged to prosecute former president

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[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called Monday for Haitian authorities to prosecute [press release] the country’s former president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for human rights violations committed during his time in office. Duvalier returned to Haiti on Sunday stating that he had come to offer assistance [BBC report] to help the country recover from last year’s earthquake [JURIST news archive]. Duvalier was president of Haiti from 1971 to 1986. During that time, AI claims Duvalier and his regime committed acts of “systematic torture,” including the disappearance or execution hundreds of human rights activists and other pro-democracy individuals at the hands of Haiti’s armed forces and private militia, “tonton macoutes.” Duvalier has also been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the country. AI representative Javier Zuniga urged the country’s authorities to prosecute Duvalier and others who were responsible for the human rights abuses:

The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Dubalier’s rule amount to crimes against humanity. Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes. … The Haitian authorities must break the cycle of impunity that prevailed for decades in Haiti. Failing to bring to justice those responsible will only lead to further human rights abuses.

Other rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], joined AI in calling for prosecution [press release] of the former president, stating that the only purpose for Duvalier’s return to Haiti should be “to face justice.”

Last February, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in French] announced that $4.6 million seized from Duvalier’s Swiss bank account must be returned to his family [JURIST report]. The decision came after the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland [official website, in French] rejected the family’s claim to Duvalier’s money, which was hidden in Swiss banks during his tenure as president. In 2007, Haitian president Rene Preval [BBC profile] vowed to continue legal proceedings [JURIST report] against Duvalier despite the latter’s plea for forgiveness in a recorded message broadcast around the country. Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” is the son of former Haitian leader Francois Duvalier, or “Papa Doc,” whom he succeeded as “president for life.” In response to accusations of human rights violations, Duvalier fled Haiti in 1986, and has since resided in France.