Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] appeared before a Haitian court on Thursday, after previously rebuffing summonses for alleged human rights abuses from 1971-1986. Thursday's hearing marked the first time that the plaintiffs confronted [AP report] Duvalier. Duvalier had ignored three previous summonses before his appearance in court on Thursday. A judge told Duvalier that he would be jailed if he did not appear before the court after the fourth summons was issued. The lawyer for the plaintiffs criticized the previously rebuffed summonses as evidence of Haiti's failing justice system. The legal proceedings began with Duvalier's lawyer requesting that the proceedings take place behind closed doors. The judges asked Duvalier about political prisoners that were locked up, tortured, and killed during his time in office.
Last week a Haitian judge ordered [JURIST report] Duvalier to appear in court for a hearing on whether he should face charges for human rights abuses. The summons followed a previous order [JURIST report] from nearly two weeks ago by a Haitian appeals court for Duvalier to appear for the hearings, a directive which the ex-president failed to follow]. Duvalier returned to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years in exile, prompting an investigation for crimes 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.