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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:32 PM

Will the US Continue to Obstruct Justice for Duvalier's Victims in Haiti?

Will the US Continue to Obstruct Justice for Duvalier's Victims in Haiti?
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 12:04 By Dan Beeton, Alexander Main and Jake Johnston, Truthout | Op-Ed

In Argentina, Guatemala, Peru and other countries in the region, former dictators and many of those responsible for egregious human rights violations under former authoritarian regimes have been tried, or are in the process of being tried, for their crimes. In Haiti, for the first time, there appears to be genuine hope that Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will face human rights charges in court. But there's still a difficult road ahead, and one of the main obstacles may be the US government.

After Duvalier repeatedly failed to appear at appeals hearings regarding human rights charges, a Haitian judge issued an order for him to appear on February 28, meaning that Duvalier could be escorted there by authorities. If Duvalier finally does appear before the court, it will be the first time that he will be obliged to address political violence crimes that occurred during his 15-year dictatorship (1971-1986), which followed the 14-year dictatorship of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier (1957-1971).

Currently, Duvalier is facing charges of corruption which have been admitted by the Haitian courts. But on January 30, 2012, Investigative Judge Carves Jean rejected human rights charges brought against the former dictator, claiming they exceeded the statute of limitations. The hearings to which Duvalier has been summoned recently have been convened to address the appeal of the judge's decision by victims' lawyers.

Judge Jean's ruling shocked the human rights community. Duvalier is one of the hemisphere's more notorious past dictators, infamous for brutally crushing dissent with the assistance of the dreaded "Tonton Macoute" secret police and the Haitian army during 15 years in power. During his rule, thousands were killed - many of them buried in mass graves - and thousands tortured. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country, some of them turned back by US ships seeking to prevent them from reaching US shores.


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