Haiti accused Ex-dictator appeals court's decision to reopen inquiry into crimes against humanity

Published on by Joseph Guyler Delva (author)

Locations(s): Port au Prince, Haiti

Duvalier (photo: )

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Lawyers for ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier filed on Friday an appeal before Haiti's Supreme Court, as they seek to obtain the quashing of a recent Appeal court's ruling which ordered the reopening of an investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated under the Duvalier regime.

Duvalier's lawyers warned against a possible civil war in the event of judicial proceedings against "Baby Doc" for crimes against humanity which, they say, are not recognized by Haitian national law.

"No court, no judge has the legal authority to prosecute or try President Duvalier for crimes against humanity, for the evident reason that there are no provisions in  Haitian law for such action," Lawyer Reynold George told HCNN on Friday.

"If they try to try Duvalier when the law does not allow it, there can be frustrations which could lead to civil war," said George. "Yes, the risk is there," he insisted.

The Appeal Court recently overturned a decision issued by an investigative judge, Carves Jean, who had turned a blind eye to human rights abuses and crimes against humanity blamed on the Duvalier regime, from 1971 to 1986.

Judge Carves Jean had indicted Duvalier on only on financial crimes, a decision which was widely criticized by national and international human rights groups.

A lawyer representing the victims of Duvalier's dictatorship, Jean Joseph Exumé, challenged rival lawyers' claim that Haitian laws do not provide for proceedings on crimes against humanity.

"Yes, Duvalier can be and should be tried for crimes against humanity because Haiti ratified in 1979 the American Convention [on Human Rights] which automatically became part of our national legislation," Exumé told HCNN.

The lawyer said Haiti also recognized in 1998, the authority of the Inter-American Court.

"So there is enough legal ground to prosecute and try Duvalier for crimes against humanity," said Exumé, explaining that Duvalier's lawyers' action was taken in order to delay the process.

Duvalier's supporters argue the former "president for life" should be forgiven to facilitate a reconciliation process, but many Haitians believe "Baby Doc" should be tried and sentenced for all the crimes and atrocities committed under the regime he inherited from his father, Francois "Papa doc" Duvalier, who reigned over Haiti from 1957 to 1971.

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