Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Duvalier’s Victims Are Still Seeking Justice

Besides the murders, forced disappearances, and violence that were rampant during Duvalier’s regime, the former dictator stole hundreds of millions from Haiti. This article uses the story of one man who sought reparations from Duvalier to demonstrate how victims of that brutal regime still want justice. Although Duvalier is dead, victims, their lawyers, and human rights advocates still plan to pursue his accomplices and finally give some closure to those who suffered.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Duvalier’s Passing Does Not Wipe Away Victims’ Misery

Vania Andre, The Haitian Times
October 11, 2014

Etzer Lalanne is not a man you’d expect should be nearly a millionaire. His large glasses hang over his small eyes, surrounded by bags and wrinkles – evidence of the hard long years of working as a cab driver in New York City.

More than 25 years ago, a Florida court awarded Lalanne – a Haitian refugee who was granted political asylum in the U.S. – $750,000 in a civil case against Jean Claude Duvalier, for the 10 months he spent as a political prisoner under the dictatorial regime in 1981.

Despite the victory, red tape and the crafty skills of lawyers and accountants prevented Lalanne, 62, from ever seeing a cent of his money. But, for the first time in more than 25 years, a dream that lay nearly dead for more than two decades, showed some signs of life with the passing of Duvalier on Oct. 3.

Even in death his wrongs have to be rectified, Lalanne said. His sentiments echoed that of thousands of Haitians who agree Duvalier’s passing does not wipe the slate clean for the stain he left in Haiti’s history. On Wednesday, reports surfaced the former dictator would not be receiving a state funeral on Saturday.

“After killing so many people, there’s no way you can honor that man with a state funeral,” Lalanne said. “There’s no way I could accept if he did.”

The former leader’s death reawakened questions of accountability and whether Lalanne, alongside thousands of others with grievances against the exiled despot, would finally be able to cash in their calls for justice.

“Lalanne has a legal right to revisit and pursue this case, the question is whether he has the practicality to do so,” said Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). “It’s a matter of whether he can find the money and resources to fight this case.”

The likelihood that there’s any money left is very small, said Ira Kurzban, a Florida-based attorney that represented Lalanne, Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste , a Miami activist who passed away in 2009, and the Haitian people in the 1986 case that sought $504 million in damages from Duvalier.

Duvalier had an army of lawyers and accountants to hide his money, Concannon said. He was very open about how he stole public money and “did a good job of hiding it.”

Several of people have cases similar to Lalanne’s all over Haiti, Concannon said. They have the right to pursue this, regardless of how many steps it takes.

“All we can do is keep pushing to get through the justice system and see if at the end of the journey there’s any money left.”


Click HERE for the full text and a clip from the Democracy Now video report.

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