PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The press office of Haiti’s President Michel Martelly says he won’t interfere in the case of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.
Friday’s statement comes five days after an investigative magistrate recommended that the former ruler known as “Baby Doc” face trial for alleged financial crimes, but not for human rights abuses associated with his regime.
Human rights groups allege the judge ignored testimony and laws that would have enabled prosecution on the more serious crimes. Some activists also complain that many of the new government’s officials have personal or family ties to the Duvalier regime of 1971 to 1986.
Duvalier returned to Haiti last year after 25 years in exile.
The judge said that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier should face trial for corruption, but not the more serious charges of human rights violations committed during his rule.
Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean said the statute of limitations had run out on the human rights charges but not on the accusations of misappropriation of public funds. He did not explain his reasoning, but the once-feared ruler Duvalier is widely believed to have used money from the Haitian treasury to finance his life in exile.
Jean did not release the verdict, based on a yearlong investigation, saying it must first be reviewed by the attorney general as well as by Duvalier and the victims of his regime who filed complaints against him.
The judge said he recommended that the case be heard by a special court that handles relatively minor crimes. Duvalier, who has been free to roam about the capital since his surprise return from exile last year, would face no more than five years in prison.
Duvalier attorney Reynolds Georges, who had argued that the case should be dismissed in its entirety because the statute of limitations had expired on all the charges, said he would appeal the decision as soon as he received the paperwork.
“We’re going to appeal that decision … and throw it in the garbage can,” Georges told The Associated Press.
Duvalier has posed a challenge to Haiti since his return home from 25 years in exile, which he had spent in France. Haiti has a weak judicial system, with little history of successfully prosecuting even simple crimes, and the government is preoccupied with reconstruction from the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
A majority of Haitians are now too young to have lived under Duvalier but many still remember his government’s nightmarish prisons and violent special militia, known as the Tonton Macoute, which killed and tortured political opponents with impunity.
More than 20 victims filed complaints shortly after Duvalier’s return. Some were prominent Haitians, including Robert Duval, a former soccer star who said he was beaten and starved during his 17 months of captivity in the dreaded Fort Dimanche prison. Duval said he was stunned when he was notified about the judge’s decision and unsure if he planned to file an appeal.
Photo: Jean-Claude Duvalier