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Haiti - Duvalier : HRW says the Haitian judicial system is a shame
05/10/2014 10:42:25

Haiti - Duvalier : HRW says the Haitian judicial system is a shame
Saturday, following the death of Jean-Claude Duvalier https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-12203-haiti-flash-former-president-jean-claude-duvalier-died-update-2.html Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the inability of Haiti’s courts to bring to trial former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier aka "Baby Doc deprived his countless Haitian victims of the justice they sought.

"It's a shame that the Haitian justice system could not bring Baby Doc Duvalier to trial before he died," declared Reed Brody, special counsel at Human Rights Watch, who worked with Duvalier’s victims. "Duvalier’s death robs Haiti of what could have been the most important human rights trial in its history." Duvalier inherited power from his father, the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986.

During his rule, Haiti was marked by systematic human rights violations. Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons known as the "triangle of death" died from their extraordinarily cruel treatment. Others were victims of extrajudicial killings. Duvalier’s government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, and in some cases tortured, jailed, or forced into exile.

When "Baby Doc" made a surprise return to Haiti on January 16, 2011 https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-2135-haiti-flash-politic-after-25-years-of-exile-baby-doc-is-back-in-haiti.html following a 25-year exile in France, the authorities reopened a criminal case against him. In January 2012, an investigating judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the human rights crimes of which he was accused https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-4845-haiti-justice-judge-carves-recommends-that-duvalier-is-tried-for-embezzlement-of-public-funds.html . His victims appealed. In February 2013, an appeals court ordered Duvalier to testify https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-7987-haiti-justice-duvalier-answers-the-questions-of-judge-jean-joseph-lebrun-update-4h10-pm.html , as did many of his government’s victims, but only in February 2014 did the court re-instate the charges, saying that international law barred the use of statute of limitations for crimes against humanity https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-10576-haiti-justice-bouncing-in-the-case-jean-claude-duvalier.html . One of the appeals court judges took over the investigation and was interviewing victims and witnesses when Duvalier died.

"Duvalier’s court appearance in 2013 to be questioned about his alleged crimes was a critical moment in a country where the rich and powerful have always been above the law," declared Brody. "A fair trial for Duvalier could have ended the impunity that has characterized Haiti’s past and will likely plague its future."

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