PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Jean-Claude Duvalier may not have directly participated in torture and killings but there is still enough evidence to prosecute him for abuses dating back more than 25 years, a Human Rights Watch lawyer said last week.
The former dictator known as “Baby Doc” had to be at least aware of torture and killings committed by forces under his command according to testimony from victims and a review of documents and old media accounts, Human Rights Watch counsel Reed Brody said at a news conference to present a report reviewing the evidence against Duvalier.
“There’s a lot of evidence to show that Jean-Claude Duvalier may have ordered certain crimes,” Brody told reporters as he urged Haitian authorities to prosecute former the dictator. “At the very least ... he never stepped in to stop those crimes.”
A Haitian judge launched an investigation of Duvalier soon after his surprise return from exile in January. But the case has appeared to stall. The former dictator is staying in a villa while the judge decides whether he can still be charged for crimes that include corruption, illegal arrests and torture.
His lawyers say the statute of limitations on any alleged offenses has run out. Michael Puglise, one of his attorneys, dismissed the Human Rights Watch as a politically motivated attack on the former president.
“I would question who is behind the report. What are the motivating factors,” Puglise said. “These are political opponents of Duvalier pushing this.”
Duvalier, 59, ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986 after inheriting power from his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. He was ousted in 1986 in a popular uprising against a regime widely considered brutal and corrupt.