(NEW YORK) – Former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier must either face a court
hearing over charges of human rights abuses or be arrested, Amnesty International said
amid fears he may flee the country using a newly-granted diplomatic passport.
On Thursday, Duvalier – also known as “Baby Doc” – refused to face court for the
third time. The judge of the Court of Appeal has rescheduled for February 28 and
instructed the Public Prosecutor to bring him to that hearing.
Yesterday’s hearing was due to examine an appeal brought by victims of human rights
violations against the January 2012 decision by an investigative judge not to put
Duvalier on trial for violations of human rights so serious they amount to crimes
against humanity– including torture, killings, and disappearances committed during his
time in office.
“Jean-Claude Duvalier cannot be beyond the reach of justice,” said Béatrice
Vaugrante, an Amnesty International delegate who was present at the hearing. “The
authorities in Haiti have the duty to do all they can to ensure he faces the courts for
the systematic abuses that took place during his time in office. If he continues to
avoid the hearing, he must be arrested.”
Duvalier’s lawyers tried to further delay the proceedings in the Court of Appeal by
reportedly appealing last Monday to the Supreme Court (la Cour de cassation d’Haïti)
against the Court of Appeal’s decision on February 7 to recognize the plaintiffs as
civil parties. However, the Court of Appeal refused to suspend the proceeding.
“The Court of Appeal has taken a very important step by ignoring Duvalier’s lawyers
delaying tactics and by issuing a summons for Duvalier to appear in Court next week. It
is now the obligation of the Public Prosecutor to execute this warrant and the duty of
all Haitian authorities to ensure that the victims’ appeal is finally heard,” said
Vaugrante. “As the Public Prosecutor’s Office falls under the executive, there are risks
that the court’s warrant might not be implemented.”
In addition to the delays and lack of independence of the Public Prosecutor’s office,
Amnesty International is concerned that the Court of Appeal does not seem to be in
possession of the complete file which had been previously in the hands of the
It is also extremely worrying that the families of victims of extrajudicial
executions and enforced disappearances and the survivors of torture committed during
Duvalier’s time in power have not yet had a chance to be heard by the Court of
“The testimonies of the victims and their families are extremely powerful and
compelling.” said Vaugrante. “It is essential that all the evidence which has been
gathered is made available to the Court and that the voices of the victims are
Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years exile in France in January
2011. He was then indicted by Haitian authorities for embezzlement and theft of public
funds during his presidency and, later, for crimes against humanity – including torture,
executions, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances carried out between 1971 and
In January 2012, the judge assigned to the case decided to try the former leader only
for embezzlement of public funds, on the false claim that the crimes against humanity
for which he was accused had expired under a statute of limitations in Haitian law.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist
organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than
150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and
exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever
justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.