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Rights groups condemn pace in Haiti Baby Doc case

January 15, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Two leading advocacy groups on Wednesday condemned the sluggish pace of a criminal case against former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement that the ex-leader known as “Baby Doc” is escaping justice because of a “lack of political will and unacceptable court delays.”

A judge in 2012 ruled that Duvalier could be tried on charges of misappropriating public funds, but threw out human rights charges, saying the statute of limitations had expired. Duvalier is challenging the financial decision and the plaintiffs are appealing the ruling on human rights complaints.

The appeals court hearing the case heard testimony last year from Duvalier and several victims, who described being tortured under the regime that lasted from 1971 to 1986. Its decision has been on hold since May, pending unspecified procedural steps, the advocacy groups said, citing multiple sources.

“It appears that the Haitian authorities have no intention of carrying out thorough investigations into Duvalier-era abuses,” Javier Zuniga of Amnesty International said in the statement.

President Michel Martelly once said he was open to pardoning Duvalier as part of a broader effort for national reconciliation. He has also said that it’s up to Haiti’s judiciary to handle the case.

The lead judge on the case, Jean-Joseph Lebrun, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Duvalier, 62, made a surprise return to his homeland on Jan. 16, 2011, following 25 years in exile in France.

Duvalier, then only 19, took office after his father, Francois “Papa Doc,” died. Human Rights Watch has estimated that the Duvaliers ordered the deaths of some 20,000 to 30,000 civilians during their 29-year rule.

Duvalier has made regular public outings since his return, including a visit to an independence day ceremony on Jan. 1, which drew condemnation from the case’s plaintiffs. He’s also renovating a house in the Petionville district of the capital.

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