Jean-Claude Duvalier “Baby Doc” Prosecution
Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, one of the most notorious dictators of the 20th Century, served as the President of Haiti from 1971–1986, following the death of his father, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Gaining power at the age of 19, Jean-Claude Duvalier soon asserted control over the repressive regime created by his father. The Duvaliers used the official military and police forces, as well as the paramilitary Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (popularly known as the Tonton Macoutes), to violently assert their control with widespread impunity. While alleging his support for reforms and increased respect for human rights, Jean-Claude Duvalier’s regime continued to perpetrate systematic human rights abuses against Haitian citizens, including: Curtailment of civil and political rights, including freedom of the press and political opposition; Arbitrary detention, exile, forced disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killing of opponents of the regime; Abysmal prison conditions, where many citizens died without having been convicted of any crime; Widespread corruption, through which Duvalier misappropriated hundreds of millions dollars of public funds throughout his Presidency.
Exiled in 1986, Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti on January 16, 2011. He was soon charged with financial and political violence crimes. Haiti’s duty to effectively investigate and prosecute Duvalier for crimes of his administration is clearly established in domestic and international law:
Article 276(2) of Haiti’s Constitution domesticates all international legal commitments, meaning Haiti is bound to respect all international treaties to which it is party; Haiti is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. These treaties obligate Haiti to provide for the basic human rights of all persons within their jurisdiction, including an effective remedy for violations of such rights. According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared that under international legal principles, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses are not subject to any statute of limitations. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has classified the systematic abuses of human rights under Duvalier as crimes against humanity.
In January 2012, a magistrate judge decided to uphold the economic charges against Duvalier but dismiss the political violence charges. BAI appealed the political violence decision and Duvalier appealed the economic decision. On February 20, 2014, a 3-judge panel of the Appellate Court in Port-au-Prince rendered a decision reinstating the political violence charges, because there is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. Now, an investigation into Duvalier’s crimes must be made in order for the trial to continue.
Our Role in the Prosecution
To date, IJDH/BAI has completed significant work to support the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier. IJDH/BAI filed extensive evidence concerning Duvalier’s political and financial crimes with Haiti’s national prosecutor and continues to assist individual civil plaintiffs to file complaints against Duvalier for human rights violations. In addition, IJDH/BAI supported the creation of a civil society organization, the Citizen’s Collective for Prosecuting Duvalier (known by its Creole acronym, KOSIJID), aimed at increasing public awareness of the case and its importance. IJDH/BAI staff attorneys and legal fellows are assisted in this work by a committed group of interns and pro bono assistance from the law firms of Ropes & Gray, Mintz Levin and Shearman & Sterling. With the assistance of these firms, IJDH/BAI has been able to submit draft questions to the Juge d’Instruction (see Figure 2) to him help navigate the complex history of the regime’s criminal activity when questioning Duvalier.
Overview of the Haitian Judicial System
A former French colony, Haiti’s judicial system is largely based on the civil law system used in France in the early 19th Century. Laws are codified in a series of legal codes, including the civil and criminal codes. Haiti’s Constitution also defines basic legal rights of all Haitian citizens and makes clear that any international treaties that Haiti chooses to ratify becomes binding in domestic tribunals as well. The Minister of Justice holds primary responsibility for overseeing judicial matters in Haiti, as well as responsibility for the security and police forces. Please see Figure 1 for an overview of the Haitian court system, as defined in the 1987 Haitian Constitution. Figure 1 In Haiti, individual civil complainants can join a case originally brought on criminal grounds by the Haitian government prosecutor. Therefore, once criminal charges have been filed, victims attach individual civil claims seeking redress for crimes against humanity onto the existing case, to be heard together. Complaints are usually filed with the government prosecutor (Commissaire au Gouvernement) who may refer them to a Juge d’Instruction. After receiving a complaint, the Juge d’Instruction has three months to investigate the complaint and determine if there is sufficient basis for prosecution. Because this three month period restarts with each new complaint filed, the period for gathering evidence and investigation by the judge may be extended, such as in the case of Duvalier where additional individual complainants continue to file claims. As necessary, the Juge d’Instruction may also request an extension to this investigatory period. If the judge allows prosecution, the government prosecutor (and any individual legal representatives of civil complainants that have joined the case) may prepare and present their case before the appropriate court, see Figure 2. In the case of Duvalier, criminal charges have been filed and are currently before the Juge d’Instruction. IJDH/BAI and others are now continuing to prepare and submit the claims of individual civil complainants. Figure 2
Articles on the Feb 20, 2014 Ruling
- Duvalier attorney in Haiti files appeal, Trenton Daniel, Miami Herald, March 12, 2014
- Les avocats de Duvalier rejettent l’arrêt de la cour d’appel, Louis-Joseph Olivier, Le Nouvelliste, March 11, 2014
- Reinstatement of criminal case against Duvalier a momentous victory for Haitians, Nicole Phillips, Boston Haitian Reporter, March 6, 2014
- UN expert applauds Haitian decision to probe alleged abuses by ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, UN NEWS Centre, February 25, 2014
- video by Frantz Etienne (French and Kreyol), Jounal Founi Je Gade, February 24, 2014
- Haitian Judges Greenlight Duvalier Atrocity Charges, Tim Padgett, WLRN, February 23, 2014
- ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier faces probe into crimes against humanity, France24, February 22, 2014
- Haitian court reinstates political charges against Jean-Claude Duvalier, UPI, February 21, 2014
- Haiti: Duvalier case back on course towards justice for the victims, Amnesty International, February 21, 2014
- BAI, IJDH saluent la décision de rétablir les crimes contre l’humanité contre Duvalier (press release), IJDH, February 21, 2014
- Human Rights Organizations Applaud Court’s Decision to Reinstate Human Rights Crimes against Jean-Claude Duvalier (press release), IJDH, February 21, 2014
- UN hails probe into former leader’s alleged abuses as ‘landmark’ step for Haitian justice, UN News Centre, February 21, 2014
- Appeals court rules ex-Haitian dictator may be charged with human rights crimes, Jamaica Observer, February 21, 2014
- Haiti court paves way for Duvalier trial, Agence France-Presse, GlobalPost, February 21, 2014
- Affaire Duvalier (includes copy of the Appeals Court decision), Jean-Robert Fleury, Le Nouvelliste, February 21, 2014
- Haiti court says human rights charges can be brought against Duvalier, Amelie Baron, Reuters, February 20, 2014
- Haitian Dictator May Be Charged With Human Rights Crimes, Court Says, Randal C. Archibold, The New York Times, February 20, 2014
- Victims applaud Haitian court decision on Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, February 20, 2014
Now that Duvalier has died, what will happen to the case against him? How will victims of his regime find justice? It is important to remember that Duvalier did not carry out his crimes alone. His regime’s victims are insisting that the case continue against those who torturted, imprisoned, killed and stole, and we will be there to support their fight and prosecute Duvalier’s co-defendants. Now more than ever, we need to show current and future leaders that Haiti will not stand for impunity. Find recent articles about Duvalier here. Learn more about our work on the Duvalier prosecution here.
This article connects Duvalierism with many issues that are ongoing in Haiti, such as the lack of democratic elections and constant interference by foreign powers. It cites our work on prosecuting Duvalier, Fran Quigley’s book How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, and Haiti’s need for sovereignty. Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text. The Tyrant Jean-Claude Duvalier Is Dead, but His Legacy Still Lives in UN-Occupied Haiti Roger Annis, Truthout October 8, 2014 Jean-Claude Duvalier, the tyrant who ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986, has died in Haiti at the age of 63. His death provides a moment for political reflection by the Haitian people, especially in view of the reality that so much of Duvalier’s harsh political legacy remains alive and well in the island country. A UN Security Council foreign military occupation has entered its 11th year. It … Continue reading
While some, like Duvalier’s victims and BAI, are working on prosecuting Duvalier’s accomplices, some believe that even if Duvalier hadn’t died, the prosecution wouldn’t have succeeded. This segment features Brian Concannon, of the former camp, and former Haitian police director Pierre Denize, of the latter. Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and audio. Haiti’s Crucial Question: Would Baby Doc Have Gone To Jail If He’d Lived Longer? Tim Padgett, WLRN October 8, 2014 As Haiti’s national police director from 1996 to 2002, Pierre Denize had a mission: to help the country’s fledgling democracy build a more professional and humane justice system. Denize had seen too much of the polar opposite in his youth – especially when his parents were jailed, brutalized and exiled during the three-decade-long reign of cruelty and corruption known as the Duvalier dynasty. “What [the … Continue reading
De Genève étant, Maitre Mario Joseph explique pourquoi le procès de Duvalier devrait continuer malgré la mort de celui-ci. Joseph explique, aussi, la situation de droits humains en Haïti, notamment concernant les élections longtemps différées par le gouvernement Martelly. “Un procès du régime Duvalier serait un remède à l’impunité” RTS 7 octobre 2014 “Jean-Claude Duvalier ne sera pas jugé, son régime, oui”. L’avocat haïtien Mario Joseph s’est exprimé mardi à la RTS, en marge d’une réunion de la Commission des droits de l’Homme de l’ONU à Genève, qui se penche sur le cas d’Haïti. L’homme de loi, qui représente des victimes des exactions commises sous la dictature de l’ex-président Duvalier décédé samedi, plébiscite “un procès de ses partisans, de sa femme, des membres de son gouvernement.” “Remède à l’impunité” Un tel procès permettrait de “donner un peu de mémoire à ceux qui n’ont … Continue reading
The Appellate court decision to reinstate political violence charges against Duvalier was a landmark victory for the victims, lawyers, and the Haitian justice system as a whole. In this article, IJDH Staff Attorney Nicole Phillips gives her and Mario Joseph’s perspective on that remarkable day (February 20, 2014) and emphasizes the bravery of the judges who made the decision, given the dangers of human rights work in Haiti. Reinstatement of criminal case against Duvalier a momentous victory for Haitians Nicole Phillips, Boston Haitian Reporter March 6, 2014 The Appellate Court decision last month to reinstate political violence crimes against former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was a momentous victory for Haitians all over the world. The court courageously challenged the impunity of the justice system, but also applied international human rights law to protect poor people for the first time … Continue reading
Le Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) et l’Institute pour la Justice et Démocratie en Haïti saluent la décision de la Cour en vue de rétablir les crimes contre l’humanité contre Jean-Claude Duvalier (Port au Prince, 21 février 2014) —le Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) et l’Institut pour la Justice et Démocratie en Haïti (IJDH) applaudirent la décision de la Cour d’appel hier qui a rétabli les crimes contre l’humanité contre l’ancien dictateur Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier pour des violences politiques commises sous son règne. Mario Joseph, Av., qui représente les victimes dans ce cas, a exprimé sa satisfaction pour cette décision qu’il qualifie de : « victoire totale ». Des plaintes pour crimes de violences politiques, détournement de fonds et corruption ont été déposées contre Duvalier en janvier 2011, quelques jours après son retour en Haïti après 25 ans d’exil. En … Continue reading