[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Haitian authorities Thursday to prosecute [press release] former president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC backgrounder] for crimes against humanity that occurred under his leadership between 1971 and 1986. The pressure on Haiti comes after AI released a report [text, PDF] detailing human rights abuses that occurred under Duvalier’s government. When Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011, Haitian authorities indicted him for embezzlement, theft of public funds and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency. According to a Special Adviser at Amnesty International, there is enough evidence to prosecute Duvalier for detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances that took place under his leadership. AI reported:
Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is a violation of international law. During Jean-Claude Duvalier’s presidency, torture was used widely and systematically to extract confessions, to punish and to instil [sic] fear. Most of the information collected by Amnesty International concerning the torture and ill-treatment of detainees comes from the survivors themselves, or in the form of testimonies from fellow prisoners, who saw the marks and injuries of torture on the victims’ bodies.
The AI report recommends that Haiti apologize and respect the rights of the victims, conduct a thorough, effective and impartial investigation into human rights abuses, apply jurisprudence from national and international courts, and ratify human rights instruments.
In July, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] spoke on the importance of Haiti improving its human rights record [JURIST report], including trying Duvalier. Stressing the importance of rebuilding after Haiti’s recent earthquake, Kang said reform must create a new focus on human rights and equality in the nation. Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” is the son of former Haitian leader Francois Duvalier, or “Papa Doc,” whom he succeeded as leader in 1971. Following a tumultuous reign, which included accusations of thousands of murders by his regime [HRW report], Duvalier fled Haiti in 1986 and had since resided in France, until his return to Haiti in January. AI announced [JURIST report] that Haitian authorities will investigate crimes committed against humanity allegedly committed under the rule of Duvalier during the 1970s and 80s.
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