By: Anna Malinovskaya
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, accused by Human Rights Watch of gross violations of human rights, will probably not be held accountable for the atrocities.
On January 30, the investigative judge did not find him guilty of assassination, torture, or extreme corruption under his governance.
The judge decided that the statute of limitations can prevent the trial, which contradicts the position of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, by whose judgments Haiti is legally bound.
Duvalier will, however, be tried for misappropriation of public funds.
Duvalier came to power in 1971 when he was only 19, after the death of his father Francois Duvalier. He ruled the country till 1986 and then was cast out in an uprising.
After 25 years in exile, he came back to Haiti and was charged with financial and human rights violations within days of his return.
In April 2011, Human Rights Watch released a report “Haiti’s Rendezvous With History: The Case of Jean-ClaudeDuvalier,” (http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/haiti0411Web.pdf) examining human rights abuses under Jean-Claude Duvalier and the ex-dictator’s liability.
It states that hundreds of political prisoners were held in a network of three prisons known as the “triangle of death,” and died from maltreatment. It also says that political prisoners often faced interrogation and savage torture.
Moreover, the reports affirms that freedoms of association, assembly, and expression were severely restricted; the government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations; journalists were beaten, jailed and forced to leave the country.
Human Rights Watch concludes that “Under international law, which is binding on Haiti and has been incorporated into Haitian law. Haiti has a duty to investigate and punish perpetrators of serious human rights abuses,” and that “crimes committed as part of systematic or generalized attacks against civilian populations constitute crimes against humanity.”
The victims’ lawyers are expected to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with the victims in the case, said that if they exhaust their appeal options in the Haitian system, they could take the Haitian state to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Brody said, “This ruling is another reminder that Haiti’s justice system has almost always been on the side of the powerful, no matter how gruesome or destructive their crimes, – he added. – We hope that it will be overturned on appeal.”