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Haiti's Duvalier Makes First Court Appearance

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, center, attends hearing as companion Veronique Roy sits behind, right, Port-au-Prince, Feb. 28, 2013.
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has appeared in court for a hearing on whether he should face charges of corruption and human-rights violations committed during his brutal 15-year rule.

Duvalier failed to show up for three previous court proceedings, prompting a judge to issue a summons ensuring his presence for Thursday's hearing, under police escort if necessary.

The 61-year-old Duvalier sat in the packed courtroom with his longtime partner, Veronique Roy. Many former victims of the Duvalier regime planned to testify against him, while dozens of Duvalier supporters gathered outside.

The case is being closely watched by international human-rights observers who consider it a landmark example for Haiti's justice system after decades of dictatorship and military rule.

Duvalier ruled from 1971 until he was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986. He returned to Haiti two years ago after 25 years of exile in France.

The former dictator and his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, enforced their rule with the aid of the feared "Tonton Macoutes" militia, who were blamed for hundreds of deaths and disappearances in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.