Haitian Court courageously challenged impunity in Duvalier Case

If Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier had somehow thought Haitians had forgotten, the recent court ruling that reinstated the criminal case against him taught him otherwise. The despotic ruler, who inherited the presidency from his father at the age of 19, spent his years in power from 1971 to 1986 building his repertoire of fear and tyranny. The era ended with his overthrow in '86 and a 25-year exile he broke with his return in 2011.


With his return came the memory of what he is accused of--not to the victims of those crimes, but to the forefront of the law and the news. Many in the nation became greatly incensed when, upon his return, the polarizing man was seemingly greeted with open arms by the current president, who even renewed Duvalier's diplomatic passport.

But Duvalier was also met with charges of financial criminal activity and violent crimes. A newly-appointed magistrate judge, at the beginning of 2012, upheld the financial criminal charges, but threw out political violence crime charges, upon the recommendation of the government prosecutor, for being past the statute of limitation (ten years).

With the might of the National Palace and the still-present clout of the Duvalier name behind him, Baby Doc seemed primed for a strong comeback. Then, out of the ashes of the 2011 failed attempt, the Appellate Court cited the international law that binds Haiti which says that there can be no statute of limitation applied to crimes against humanity.

It can be hoped that, after this hallmark step of the Haitian courts, future rulers may think twice before attempting to hold the country hostage through fear again.

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