No expiration date for Human Rights Crimes under Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti in 2011 hoping to accomplish re-assimilation into the country that still had yet to recover from his years as president decades ago. From the start of the 70's through to the mid 80's, 'Baby Doc' Duvalier forged his name as one of the worst violators of human rights to come out of the country's history.


While it remains to be seen just what he planned with his return to the country after his long exile, if shirking the consequences of his actions during rule was one item on his list, he can redact it.

His confidence that the many tortures, extrajudicial executions numbering into the dozens, arrests of his opponents and the over $100 million U.S. he embezzled from the country was protected under the statute of limitations was shattered by a recent ruling that says there is no date of expiration for the crimes committed under him and his regime; this self-assurance having been stoked by a 2011 dismissal by another judge when victims brought a case against him.

The fact that the president in 2011 had taken steps to grant Duvalier amnesty makes the current ruling all the more powerful, though there is still a long way to go for the dictator's victims in getting any kind of justice for the past. The ruling means though, that there will be no impasse from a legal standpoint in prosecuting these crimes. The new statute may find favor in other places soon as well. The American Bar Association has resolved that time should not be an issue in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

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