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Haiti - Justice : Case Duvalier, a lack of political will and unacceptable delays
"The authorities reopened a criminal case against the former Haitian dictator three years ago shortly after he returned to the country on January 16, 2011, following a 25-year exile in France. He faced charges of serious human rights violations [...] of political opponents, and of corruption. But the case has stalled for almost a year," we can read.
"It appears that the Haitian authorities have no intention of carrying out thorough investigations into Duvalier-era," declared Javier Zúñiga, Amnesty International’s special adviser to regional programs.
"The judicial process has stalled, denying victims [...] of their right to truth, justice, and reparation. To add insult to injury, Duvalier continues to take part in public events, often at the invitation of the Haitian government [January 1st, 2014]," he added.
Recall that in January 2012 an investigating judge ruled that Duvalier should stand trial before a lower court for misappropriation of public funds, but that the statute of limitations had expired on the human rights crimes he was accused of. Both the human rights victims and Duvalier appealed the decision. The appeal began on December 13, 2012.
Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared before the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince on February 28, 2013, for the first time giving public testimony related to alleged crimes during his rule.
« Dans un pays où l’impunité [règne] la présence de Duvalier au tribunal était une lueur d’espoir pour les victimes et leurs familles, » a souligné Reed Brody, conseiller juridique et porte-parole de Human Rights Watch. « Les autorités haïtiennes ont l’obligation d’engager des poursuites pour ces graves violations des droits humains. Aucune prescription ne s’applique aux crimes tels que la torture, les exécutions extrajudiciaires et les disparitions forcées, » a t-il ajouté.
"In a country in which impunity [reign], Duvalier’s presence in the court was a glimmer of hope for the victims and their families," stressed Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson at Human Rights Watch. "The Haitian authorities have an obligation to prosecute these grave human rights violations. Crimes including torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances are not subject to a statute of limitations."
Between March and May 2013, eight victims gave testimony in court despite objections from Duvalier’s lawyers, who have filed an appeal in an effort to prevent the victims from exercising their right to participate in the proceedings as civil parties. Victims also faced the hostility of the public prosecutor who seemed to have aligned with the defense. Testimony concluded in May, and the Court of Appeal’s decision has been pending ever since. Multiple sources have told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the Court of Appeal is waiting for some other procedural steps to be carried out before issuing its ruling.
Speaking of the presence of the J-C Duvalier in the ceremonies of the Independence Day in Gonaives,who had also gathered former President Prosper Avril, under the sign of national reconciliation Javier Zúñiga declared "Reconciliation is not possible without justice, truth, and reparations."