An independent United Nations human rights expert today applauded the decision by a Haitian court to order further investigations into alleged abuses committed by former President Jean-Claude Duvalier during his 15-year rule.
On 20 February, the Court of Appeals reversed a January 2012 decision that stated that the former leader could not be charged with crimes against humanity during his reign because the time for the prosecution of those offences had elapsed.
Haitian and international human rights groups have extensively documented serious human rights violations, including torture, rape and extrajudicial killings, said to have occurred while Mr. Duvalier – known as “Baby Doc” – was in power from 1971 to 1986.
“The decision of the Court of Appeals is a significant rectification in the path in which impunity for past human rights violations was so far engaged in Haiti,” said Gustavo Gallón, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the country.
“It unequivocally reverts the incomprehensible ruling taken previously by the lower chamber judge, who threw out the human rights charges against Duvalier and only charged him for the alleged financial crimes,” he added in a news release.
The three judges from the Court of Appeals found that there was significant evidence of Mr. Duvalier’s criminal responsibility in his capacity as head of State.
“I now encourage the Haitian Government to provide the appointed investigating judge an independent and secure environment to perform his long-awaited and difficult task,” Mr. Gallón stated.
He also praised the victims and their lawyers for their courage to pursue justice against all odds, and invited the Government to take the necessary measures to protect them.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Mr. Gallón, who has served in his post since June 2013, will present his report on Haiti to the Council at its session next month.