Haitian court's decision to probe former President Duvalier welcomed "as landmark step" for justice

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Women in Haiti

The decision by Haiti's Court of Appeals to investigate former President Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity has been welcomed by the UN human rights office as "a landmark step" for justice in the country.

During his rule from 1971 to 1986, thousands of Haitians were killed and tortured  and many others fled the country.

The three-judge panel found that there was significant evidence of Mr. Duvalier's criminal responsibility as Head of State.

The judges said the former Haitian leader, who was known as "Baby Doc", did not take the necessary measures to prevent or punish the alleged crimes.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN human rights office.

"The decision by the Court of Appeals in Haiti on 20 February in favour of opening new investigations into former President Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity is a landmark step for Haitian justice in combating impunity for past human rights violations. The three-judge panel stated that the acts allegedly committed by Mr. Duvalier qualified as crimes against humanity and did not fall under the statute of limitations; and that crimes against humanity are part of Haitian law as they pertain to customary international law by which Haiti is bound." (30")

The Haitian Court of Appeals appointed one of its members as an investigating judge to interview witnesses, including persons associated with Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Mr. Duvalier, who had lived in France for 25 years, returned to Haiti in January 2011 during the presidential election campaign and was arrested for embezzlement and corruption.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.


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