"Baby Doc" Duvalier Must Face Justice for Haiti Rights Violations

January 18, 2011

Update:  In response to the arrest of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, Amnesty International’s Senior Advisor and Haiti expert, Javier Zuñiga, said:

“The arrest of Jean-Claude Duvalier is a positive step but it is not enough to charge him only with corruption. If true justice is to be done in Haiti, the Haitian authorities need to open a criminal investigation into Duvalier’s responsibility for the multitude of human rights abuses that were committed under his rule including torture, arbitrary detentions, rape, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.”

Former Haitian president, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, returned suddenly to Haiti this past weekend after living in exile for nearly 25 years in France.  We are calling on Haiti to use this opportunity to bring Duvalier to justice for human rights abuses committed during his regime in the 1970s and 80s.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was president of Haiti for 15 years, between 1971 and 1986 © AP GraphicsBank

The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Duvalier’s rule amount to crimes against humanity. Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes.

Duvalier returned to Haiti expectantly on January 16th. He fled Haiti in 1986 after a popular uprising which was violently repressed by the former Haitian Armed Forces and a local militia known as the “tonton macoutes”.

Throughout his 15 years in power (1971-1986) systematic torture and other ill-treatment were widespread across Haiti.

Hundreds of people “disappeared” or were executed. Members of Haiti’s armed forces and the militia National Security Volunteers – also known as the “tonton macoutes” — played a primary role in repressing pro-democracy and human rights activists. The “tonton macoutes” were disbanded in 1986 after Jean-Claude Duvalier went into exile.

Media reports today have indicated that Duvalier will be questioned by Haitian police.  We’ll be monitoring the situation as it unfolds.

The Haitian authorities must break the cycle of impunity that prevailed for decades in Haiti. Failing to bring to justice those responsible will only lead to further human rights abuses.