Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Inside Story Americas : Did Haiti’s Duvalier get away with murder?

Al Jazeera
February 3, 2012

As Jean-Claude Duvalier escapes trial for crimes against humanity we ask if his victims will be happy to reconcile.
Human rights groups have condemned a decision not to try Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti’s former ruler, on crimes against humanity.

A Haitian judge decided this week that Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, should not stand trial for crimes against humanity.

He is accused of the torture and murder of thousands of his own people during his 15 year rule in the seventies and eighties.

A year ago, Duvalier made a surprise return to the country after 25 years in exile.

The judge ruled that his alleged crimes fell outside Haiti’s statute of limitations. The judge, however, did say that Duvalier should stand trial on corruption charges. He is accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars during his rule.

In heavily criticising the decision, human rights groups say they gave prosecutors hundreds of documents detailing cases of abuse.

Human Rights Watch called it the most important criminal case in Haitian history.

Duvalier was only 19 when he was named Haiti’s president for life in 1971 after the death of his father Francois – known as Papa Doc.

Human rights groups say the Duvaliers used paramilitary group Tonton Macoutes to torture opponents and kill 30,000 people during their combined 29-year rule.

During Baby Doc’s 15 years in power, hundreds of political prisoners were allegedly tortured or disappeared in prisons collectively known as the triangle of death.

Duvalier is also accused of embezzling between $300m-$800m of government assets. His upcoming trial is only on corruption allegations.

Meanwhile, the United Nations – which has its own troubled history in Haiti – has also condemned the ruling.

But it is likely to please Michel Martelly, Haiti’s current president, who has close connections with Duvalier and has supported him since his return.

So, is reconciliation better than justice in Haiti? Will Duvalier’s victims ever see justice served?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Kim Ives, a journalist with Haiti Liberte; Jean-Yves Point-du-Jour, a Haitian American radio host; and Brian Concannon, of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

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