Rights groups condemn slow pace of case against former Haiti dictator

[JURIST] Two advocacy groups on Wednesday condemned [press release] the slow pace of the criminal case against former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. "A lack of political will and unacceptable court delays are allowing Haiti's former 'president-for-life," Jean-Claude Duvalier to escape justice for human rights violations," Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] said in a joint statement. Haitian authorities reopened a criminal case against Duvalier three years ago after he returned to the country from a 25-year exile in France. The charges against Duvalier include murder and torture of political opponents and corruption. However, the case has been stalled for almost a year. AI's special advisor to regional programs Javier Zuniga stated: "It appears that the Haitian authorities have no intention of carrying out thorough investigations into Duvalier-era abuses. The judicial process has stalled, denying victims of his reign of terror 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." Testimony for the appeal concluded last May, and the Court of Appeals has yet to release a decision. "Under Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes militia, thousands were tortured, killed, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile," said Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson at HRW. "Duvalier's victims shouldn't have to keep waiting and hoping for justice that never comes."

Last March Duvalier appeared before a Haitian court [JURIST report] for the first time after previously rebuffing summonses for alleged human rights abuses from 1971-1986. 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 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. In January 2012 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.

 

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