Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Press Release : IACHR Urges the Haitian Authorities to Investigate, Try and Punish the Grave Violations to Human Rights

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses concern over the declaration of statute of limitations on the crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Jean-Claude Duvalier regime in Haiti, which denies the rights to truth, justice and reparations to the victims. The Inter-American Commission calls on the Haitian authorities to comply with its international obligation to investigate, try and punish such crimes.

According to publicly available information, on January 30, 2012, the judge in charge of investigating the complaints presented against Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti for human rights violations and corruption in the country, declared that the statute of limitations had run out for the crimes related to human rights violations and decided that Duvalier would stand trial for the crime of embezzlement of public funds. The IACHR sent today to the Government of Haiti a request of information related to the judicial decision.

It is a matter of public knowledge that the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier was characterized by systematic, gross violations of human rights.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights documented the situation in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, published in 1979 and prepared on the basis of an in loco observation visit conducted in Haiti from August 16 through 25, 1978. The Inter-American Commission has continued to follow the human rights situation in Haiti.

In a statement issued in May 2011 on the duty of the Haitian State to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Inter-American Commission pointed out that “the torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier are crimes against humanity that, as such, are subject neither to a statute of limitations nor to amnesty laws.”

In accordance with consolidated jurisprudence of the inter-American system on human rights, the non-applicability of statutory limitations to crimes against humanity is an imperative norm of international law that States must comply with. Consequently, the States have the obligation to investigate, try and punish all the grave violations to human rights perpetrated in their territory. The decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court have facilitated in other countries of the region the initiation of processes towards establishing truth, justice and reparation for the grave violations of human rights.

As part of the apparatus of the State, the Haitian judiciary must submit its behavior to the obligations assumed upon ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights. In addition, it has an obligation to ensure that the Convention’s provisions are not undermined through enforcement of laws that are contrary to its object and purpose. Accordingly, when applying domestic laws, the Judiciary must adjust them to comply with the American Convention.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

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