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Rights Officials Demand Justice after Duvalier's Death

FILE - Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier attends his hearing at court in Port-au-Prince as authorities charged him with human rights abuses and embezzlement.

Human rights officials are lamenting the death of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier as an affront to justice for his victims.

Duvalier, well-known by the nickname "Baby Doc," died of a heart attack Saturday at the age of 63 without standing trial for abuses his regime allegedly committed from 1971 to 1986, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

Pierre Esperance, who heads Haiti's National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, said the case against Duvalier's crimes would continue because others implicated in the abuses and embezzlement remained alive.

"We all regret the fact that the dictator died at 63 years. He could have lived longer and allowed the Haitian people to discover the truth about the Duvalier regime," he said.

When the former leader returned to Haiti after nearly 25 years in exile in 2011, he was charged with financial and human rights crimes. An investigation was underway at the time of his death.

In a statement on Saturday, Human Rights Watch said his death "deprived his countless Haitian victims of the justice they sought."

“A fair trial for Duvalier could have ended the impunity that has characterized Haiti’s past and will likely plague its future," said Reed Brody, special counsel at Human Rights Watch, who worked with Duvalier’s victims.

President Michel Martelly, on Twitter, called him "an authentic son of Haiti" and sent his "sincere condolences to the family and to the nation." "Love and reconciliation must always prevail over our internal quarrels. May he rest in peace," Martelly wrote.

Esperance said the country would be paying attention to whether the current government gives Duvalier a state funeral.

In 1971, Duvalier became one of the world's youngest leaders at the age of 19 following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957.

Like his father, the younger Duvalier ruled with an iron fist, enforcing power with the aid of the feared "Tontons Macoutes," a secret police force blamed for hundreds of deaths and disappearances.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, who called himself "president for life" was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986.