- Title: HAITI/FILE: Haiti's "Baby Doc" Duvalier to face trial for crimes against humanity
- Date: 20th February 2014
- Summary: PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (FILE) (REUTERS) DUVALIER LEAVING COURT
- Embargoed: 7th March 2014 12:00
- Location: Haiti
- Country: Haiti
- Topics: Crime,Conflict,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA7RVOWCF2TB9MZRSQFUY5T6388
- Story Text: A Haitian appellate court on Thursday (February 20) ruled that deposed dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law and that he could be held responsible for abuses committed by the army and paramilitary under his rule.
The appellate court reversed a ruling by a judge in 2012 who said Duvalier could not be charged with crimes against humanity filed by alleged victims of forced disappearances and torture during his rule because the statute of limitations had run out.
Duvalier was not in court to hear the decision.
"The article of July 26, 1979 referred to the indictment of Mr Jean Claude and that the plaintiffs of the civil trial at the present time ordered a new hearing of all witnesses that have not been heard by the instructional judge," said Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun.
Human rights groups, as well as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, have warned Haitian authorities that there is no statute of limitations under international law for serious violations of human rights.
Judge Lebrun agreed, adding that the former dictator has a case to answer.
"A serious finding related to the indirect participation and of penal responsibility of Mr Jean Claude Duvalier is evident by not taking reasonable and necessary action to let the crime's commission to punish the criminals. So, the court rejected Jean Claude Duvalier's appeal on jurisprudence," he said.
The former dictator is also blamed for hundreds of deaths and disappearances during his iron-first rule over Haiti with the aid of feared militia group, the National Security Volunteers, better known as the "Tonton Macoutes."
Victims have welcomed the decision against Haiti's former dictator.
"I think the most satisfying thing is for the young people of this country and for the future generations because there is a court ruling, an appeals court ruling, that recognizes that there was and there are such a thing as human rights violations and this protects future generations from such violations. This sends a clear warning signal to all who are in power now, or in the future, so that they be best advised not to engage in endeavours like this," said victim, Alix Filsaime.
But the court on Thursday (February 20) postponed a long awaited decision on whether Duvalier, known popularly as "Baby Doc, should face trial for human rights abuses and public corruption.
Duvalier's legal team is expected to appeal the decision after complaining that the court's decision was influenced by human rights' groups.
Director of the Reseau Human Rights Defence Network Marie Yolen Jiles was confident the court's latest decision will not be overturned.
"The Appeal Court ordered the sanction of ordnance that Judge Carves (had) ordered on Jean Claude Duvalier's case last year. In this case, we believe that no other judges other than themselves will have any other alternative but to sanction that ordnance based on the fact that it was not within the law," she said.
Yolen Jiles added that the verdict was a step forward in bringing Duvalier to justice.
"But as you know, when the Appeal Court sanctioned the order against the demand of Jean Claude Duvalier it was a step forward. And to ask to search for supplementary information and which also retains important accusations such as executions, monetary corruption, racketeering, forced exile, crimes against human rights etc," he said.
Duvalier is alleged by his victims to have had a hand in at least a dozen of the most notorious cases involving extra-judicial killings and detention of political prisoners.
Duvalier was briefly detained on charges of corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds after returning to the impoverished Caribbean nation in January 2011 following a 25-year exile in France.
Soon after he returned to Haiti in 2011, taking up residence in a villa in a posh suburb in the hills above the capital Port-au-Prince, Duvalier issued a brief apology "to those countrymen who rightly feel they were victims of my government," the first public recognition of abuses under his rule.
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