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‘Baby Doc’s’ Dead But Fight For Justice Will Go On

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier

News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Mon. Oct. 6, 2014: Haitian-born president turned dictator, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, will soon be six feet under, taking with him the horrific human rights violations that occurred under his regime in Haiti from 1971 to 1986. But a group of lawyers pledge to fight on to bring those most responsible for serious human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime to justice.

Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC), the principal partner of the Collectif contre l’impunité (Collective Against Impunity), which is comprised of the majority of plaintiffs in the case against the ex-dictator and his close associates, said Sunday, that more than ever, the right to justice and reparation of the victims of these crimes must be respected and implemented.

They said legal proceedings involve not only the former “President for Life” but also his closest aides and associates, including Jean Valmé, Rony Gilot and Emmanuel Orcel.

Duvalier passed away Saturday at age 63, reportedly from a heart attack. The death of Duvalier, who returned to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years of exile, was announced by Florence Guillaume Duperval, the nation’s health ministe.

Haitian President Michel Martelly, reacting on Twitter, called him “an authentic son of Haiti” and sent his “sincere condolences to the family and to the nation”.

“Love and reconciliation must always prevail over our internal quarrels. May he rest in peace,” wrote Martelly, who said he was paying tribute to Duvalier “despite our quarrels and our differences.”

Duvalier became the world’s youngest president at the age of 19 when in 1971 he inherited power from his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Like his father, Baby Doc came to rule the Caribbean nation with an iron fist, crushing opposition, clamping down on dissidents, rubber-stamping his own laws and pocketing government revenue.

Duvalier made heavy use of the dreaded Tonton Macoutes, a secret police force accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing up to 30,000 political opponents during the 1960s and 1970s.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the reign of the Duvalier father and son, rights activists say. The self-proclaimed “President For Life” fled for France in 1986 after riots broke out in a number of cities following his failure to address poverty and illiteracy.

Duvalier’s departure ended nearly three decades of dictatorship begun by his father in 1957.

While Duvalier’s death elicits bitter feelings among the plaintiffs, it also strengthens their determination to obtain justice and reparation, the LWBC said in a statement.

“The death of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier does not mark the end of legal proceedings in Haiti to bring to justice those most responsible for the grave human rights violations that were committed between 1971 and 1986,” Pascal Paradis, executive director of the group said. “We stand in solidarity with the Collectif contre l’impunité and the plaintiffs in our determination to continue the struggle against impunity.”

A recent landmark decision by the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeal stated that the inquiry should target all those indicted.

“The current case cannot be closed. Haitian authorities have obligations under both Haitian and international law to investigate grave human rights violations and to take legal action against those responsible, which they were reminded of by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2011,” Paradis explained.

While Danièle Magloire, coordinator of the Collectif contre l’impunité, civil party to the proceedings against the main perpetrators of the Duvalier regime, added: “These efforts to establish collective memory are fundamental for Haitians. The documents uncovered, the testimony collected, the words exchanged, are all part of the struggle against impunity, and contribute to the creation of a democratic society in Haiti, one that is able to confront its past in order to build a better future.”