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2012-02-01

Is Former Haitian Dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier Off the Hook for Human Rights Crimes?

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A Haitian judge announced Monday former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will face trial for corruption, but will not face any charges for the murders, disappearances, torture and other human rights abuses committed during his 15-year rule because the statute of limitations has expired. "Unless this ruling is overturned on appeal, it’s just going to be another confirmation to people in Haiti that the justice system is always on the side of the rich and the powerful and doesn’t serve even to punish the worst atrocities," says Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch. "For Jean-Claude Duvalier to come back to Haiti and not be prosecuted is a slap in the face to the thousands of people who were killed and tortured under his rule." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to Haiti. A Haitian judge announced Monday that former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will face trial for corruption, but will not face any charges for the murders, disappearances, torture and other rights abuses committed during his 15-year rule. The judge said the statute of limitations had run out. This is former political prisoner Bobby Duval, jailed for 17 months during the Duvalier’s regime, speaking to Human Rights Watch.

BOBBY DUVAL: Duvalier is not just a regular person. Duvalier represents 20 years of the systematic destruction of life, of individuals, of society, of government. We’re still trying to recover from it 25 years later, and we have not been able to do so.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Bobby Duval, a former political prisoner during Duvalier’s regime in Haiti. Reed Brody, the significance of this ruling?

REED BRODY: Well, it’s very unfortunate. Unless this ruling is overturned on appeal, it’s just going to be another confirmation to people in Haiti that the justice system is always on the side of the rich and the powerful and doesn’t serve even to punish the worst atrocities. I mean, the small elite and the dictators in Haiti have gotten away with murder for so long. And Bobby Duval, a number of people, when Baby Doc came back to Haiti, filed complaints against him. And for a judge to apply the statute of limitations, when Haiti has an obligation, as we talked about earlier, to investigate those crimes—the Inter-American Court has said that a statute of limitations cannot stand in the way of these kinds of investigations. For Jean-Claude Duvalier to come back to Haiti and not be prosecuted is a slap in the face to the thousands of people who were killed and tortured under his rule.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Reed Brody, before we finish, I just wanted to ask you, what do you think is going to happen now in the case of Judge Garzón in Spain?

REED BRODY: Well, you know, Judge Garzón demonstrated yesterday in court that what he was doing, his decisions, were in—you know, this is the first time in Europe that someone is being—a judge is being prosecuted for trying to apply international law, for trying to investigate human rights crimes. And I would hope that the Supreme Court will acquit him. But the very spectacle of a judge having to explain why investigating torture, investigating disappearance, is not a crime was already a very sad sight.

AMY GOODMAN: And also, of course, the fact that he has been derailed from continuing to do the work, whether he’s talking about indicting Bush administration officials or going after anyone else.

REED BRODY: Well, of course. I mean, this is about the independence of the judiciary, as well. I mean, it’s one thing to overturn a judge’s ruling. But to prosecute a judge, to say that it’s a crime because he tried to apply international law, that it’s a crime because he said that he had the jurisdiction to investigate these Franco-era crimes, this is something that I think people around the world do not understand.

AMY GOODMAN: Reed Brody, I want to thank you for being with us, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. He was speaking to us from Brussels, Belgium. He just flew from Madrid, Spain, where he’s been observing the trial of Judge Baltasar Garzón.

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