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Rights Groups Call for Duvalier's Prosecution

Jean Claude Duvalier and his wife, at Haiti's international airport, 16 Jan 2011

Jean Claude Duvalier and his wife, at Haiti's international airport, 16 Jan 2011

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, widely known as "Baby Doc," is back in Port-au-Prince nearly 25 years after he was ousted. Some human rights groups say it is time for him to face charges for abuses committed during his 15-year rule.

Crowds of supporters cheered for the former dictator late Sunday outside the airport in Port-au-Prince.

But while some Haitians call out Duvalier's name, human rights groups are calling for his prosecution.

In a statement from the Haitian capital late Sunday, Amnesty International's Haiti expert, Gerardo Ducos, said it is time for Duvalier to face justice for human-rights abuses committed during the 1970s and 1980s.

"Amnesty International, jointly with local human rights organizations, have documented serious human rights violations such as torture, forced disappearances, rape, extra-judicial executions and murders," Ducos said. "The return of Jean-Claude Duvalier represents a clear opportunity for the Haitian authorities to put an end to the impunity that has prevailed for all these human rights violations for nearly a quarter of a century."

Later, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch each issued statements calling for Duvalier's prosecution, saying justice is long overdue.

The man known as 'Baby Doc' ruled Haiti from the time of his father's death in 1971 until he fled the country in February 1986 after a popular uprising. The rule of both Duvaliers was characterized by repression and the use of a paramilitary force known as the Tontons Macoutes, which brutally cracked down on the Haitian people.

Duvalier has not publicly explained his reasons for returning to his homeland after nearly 25 years of exile in France.

The former Haitian leader's wife Veronique Roy was vague in her answers to reporters when they asked about Duvalier's plans.

As she made her way through throngs of reporters Sunday, Roy said nothing had been planned or decided, in an effort to keep things simple. She also said Duvalier traveled on a diplomatic passport that he has had "for some time."

Another friend and supporter of Duvalier, Henri-Robert Sterlin, said Duvalier is rejoining family, society and the Haitian people.

While Duvalier's motives are unclear, it is apparent that he has returned to Haiti at a time of political, social and economic turmoil.

Haiti is dealing with November's disputed elections, last January's massive earthquake that ravaged the capital and killed more than 200,000 people, and an ongoing cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 3,000 lives so far.