Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breaking News: "Baby Doc" in Haitian Court

Former self-appointed “president-for-life” Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was questioned by a Haitian prosecutor and a judge at his hotel outside Port-au-Prince and then “escorted” to court according to this BBC News report. At the time of posting, it is unclear whether he is being arrested or being subjected to further questioning. Reports indicate some unrest outside the courthouse.
International human rights NGOs and Haitian abuse survivors called for Duvalier’s immediate arrest after his mysterious return to the island on Sunday. Forced to leave Haiti during a popular uprising in 1986, “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been living in exile in France for more than two decades without arrest. His regime was characterized by widely and reliably documented human rights abuses.

In addition to arguing Duvalier’s liability under Haitian law for alleged misappropriation of public funds and other violations, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau des Avocats Internationeaux (BAI) called for international human rights legal accountability (see press release here).

This legal documentation is supplemented by an extensive public record of Mr. Duvalier’s human rights violations, including the torture and disappearances of political dissidents at the Fort Dimanche prison and other crimes committed by organizations under his control including the Armed Forces of Haiti and the Volunteers for National Security (Tontons Macoutes).
Another Year...
For previous IntLawGrrls takes on Haiti, including by Marjorie Florestal, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and yours truly, Hope Lewis, see here and here. One year after the 12 January 2010 earthquake, I wish I could suggest an accountable, effective, and sustainable pathway for rebuilding, recovery, and transformation. One thing is clear—the core of sustainability lies with the Haitian people and the Haitian Diaspora. Still, the rest of us must play our roles--even if that role is to remember the physician's oath "first, do no harm...."

As Dr. Martin Luther King said all human beings are “tied together in an inextricable web of mutuality.” Trade, humanitarian, human rights, migration, labor, tourism, and business laws and policies do have transnational implications. What "we" do has an impact in Haiti. What happens in Haiti matters wherever “we” are. Stay tuned.

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