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
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
This article connects Duvalierism with many issues that are ongoing in Haiti, such as the lack of democratic elec
While some, like Duvalier’s victims and BAI, are working on prosecuting Duvalier’s accomplices, some
De Genève étant, Maitre Mario Joseph explique pourquoi le procès de Duvalier devrait continuer malgré la mort
The Appellate court decision to reinstate political violence charges against Duvalier was a landmark victory for