Duvalier’s return stokes tensions
Former dictator could further complicate derailed elections.
The surprise return of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier on Jan. 16, and his subsequent arrest the next day for alleged abuses of power during his 1971-86 rule, stirred up more tensions as the country grapples with an electoral stalemate.
Duvalier was briefly detained and, questioned for four hours and then released, though prosecutors charged him of misusing state funds and abuse of power.
But on Jan. 20, four Haitians, including a former UN spokeswoman, sued the 59-year-old former dictator, known as “Baby Doc,” for crimes against humanity, including torture.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are demanding that Duvalier face criminal charges for alleged human rights crimes.
“Haiti must investigate Jean-Claude Duvalier, and anyone else allegedly responsible for such crimes, some of which amount to crimes against humanity, in a trial that is thorough, independent and fair,” said Amnesty International special adviser, Javier Zúñiga.
Duvalier became "president for life" after the death of his father, François Duvalier “Papa Doc” (1957-71) in 1971. He was ousted in February 1986 by a military coup led by Maj. Henry Namphy, who ruled from 1986 to 1988.
Thousands of people were executed, disappeared or fled in exile during Duvalier’s regime at the hands of the militia National Security Volunteers, known as “Tonton Macoutes.”
“Duvalier´s return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director of Human Rights Watch. "Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile. His time to be held accountable is long overdue.”
Duvalier’s arrival eclipsed electoral turmoil. A second-round runoff, scheduled for Jan. 16, has been indefinitely delayed over continued disputes and allegations of irregularities stemming from the Nov. 28 vote.
The Provisional Electoral Council said former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Celestin made it to the runoff. But allegations of fraud required a recount, which has still not been completed, that may favor third-placed candidate Michel Martelly, a popular singer.
Both the Organization of American States and the United Nations are pressuring Haiti to complete the recount. —Latinamerica Press.