Human rights organizations to closely monitor Duvalier court appearance on Feb. 21, 2013

Three enclosed statements by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR--Organization of American States):

Haiti: Amnesty International sends observer to Jean-Claude Duvalier’s hearing

Statement by Amnesty International, February 19, 2013

An Amnesty International expert will be observing the hearing in the case against Haitian former President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier on Thursday 21 February. The hearing is to assess an appeal brought by victims of human rights violations against the decision of an investigative judge in January 2011 not to try Duvalier for crimes against humanity.

The court will hear evidence of Duvalier’s alleged responsibility for the widespread human rights violations that took place during his time in office, between 1971 and 1986 – including torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011 after 25 years in exile in France.

Béatrice Vaugrante is the director Amnesty International’s office in Canada (francophone branch) and has been closely following the proceedings surrounding Duvalier’s prosecution. Vaugrante is available for interviews in French and English on: +1 514 8142800.

For more information, please contact Amnesty International’s press office: Josefina Salomon, +44 207 413 5562, jsalomon@amnesty.org


Haiti: Human Rights Watch to Monitor Duvalier Court Hearing

***Media Advisory*** , New York, February 19, 2013

 Reed Brody, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, will be in Haiti beginning February 20, 2013, to attend the Court of Appeal hearing in the case of former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

On February 21, the court will hear an appeal by victims from the January 2012 ruling by an investigating judge that Duvalier could not be prosecuted for alleged human rights crimes committed during his rule, from 1971 to 1986, because the statute of limitations had expired.

Duvalier, who has been ordered to attend the February 21 hearing in person, is also appealing the lower-court judge’s ruling that he can be prosecuted for alleged embezzlement and other financial crimes.

“Haiti has a binding legal obligation to investigate and prosecute the grave violations of human rights under Duvalier’s rule, and cannot use the statute of limitations to ignore this obligation,” Brody said. “Haitians who suffered under Duvalier’s rule deserve justice, and all Haitians deserve to know what happened during that dark period. Countries from Argentina and Uruguay to Cambodia are prosecuting human rights crimes from decades ago. There is no reason why Haiti should not do the same.”

Duvalier returned to Haiti on January 16, 2011, after nearly 25 years in exile.

Duvalier’s rule was marked by systematic human rights violations. Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons known as the “triangle of death” died from mistreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings. Duvalier’s government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, and in some cases tortured, jailed, and forced to leave the country.

Brody is co-author of the 2011 Human Rights Watch report: “Haiti’s Rendezvous with History: The Case of Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Brody was prosecutions advisor to the Minister of Justice in Haiti from 1995 to 1996, and has since specialized in building human rights prosecutions as counsel in the case of Augusto Pinochet, and lead counsel for the victims in the case of the exiled former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, who faces trial in Senegal.

The Human Rights Watch report, “Haiti’s Rendezvous with History: The Case of Jean-Claude Duvalier,” is available at:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/04/14/haiti-s-rendezvous-history-0


IACHR reminds Haiti of its Duty to Investigate and Punish Human Rights Violations and Urges to Guarantee the Independence of the Judiciary

Statement by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, February 20, 2013
En français ici.

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is reminding the Haitian state of its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the serious human rights violations committed in that country, and to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality.

According to published information, since Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011 several groups of victims have filed complaints of human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime. On January 27, 2012 the investigating judge decided not to try Duvalier for human rights violations, a decision that the victims appealed. As part of this process, the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeals summoned Duvalier to testify at a hearing convened for February 7, 2013. He failed to appear, however, and the hearing was postponed to February 21, 2013.

The IACHR reiterates that Haiti, as a state party to the American Convention on Human Rights, has an international obligation to investigate and if necessary punish those responsible for the gross human rights violations committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Moreover, the Commission urges the State of Haiti to adopt all measures necessary to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality. The Commission notes that independence and impartiality constitute essential guarantees that allow judicial authorities to freely carry out their role of protecting the right of access to justice. In this regard, in the Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, the IACHR recommended that the States: “Strengthen the mechanisms for the administration of justice and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the officers of the court, which are necessary conditions for performance of their functions of investigating, prosecuting, and punishing those who violate human rights”.

The gross and systematic human rights violations committed under Jean-Claude Duvalier regime were documented by the Inter-American Commission in its 1979 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, prepared based on-site observation visit conducted from August 16 to 25, 1978. In that report, the IACHR recommended that the Haitian State "investigate and punish those responsible for the numerous violations of the right to life and physical security."

In May 2011 the Inter-American Commission issued a statement on the duty of the Haitian state to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, underscoring the standards of the inter-American human rights system in the subject area. The IACHR also has followed up on the issue through a public hearing held on March 28, 2011 and through press releases.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press Director
Tel. (1) 202 458 3867
mrivero@oas.org