Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has returned to Haiti 25 years after a popular uprising forced him into exile. Known as “Baby Doc,” Duvalier succeeded his father, François Duvalier, following the elder Duvalier’s death in 1971. Jean-Claude Duvalier oversaw the killings and torture of thousands of people, mostly at the hands of the militia known as the Tonton Macoutes. In a surprise return from exile in France, Duvalier said he had come back to assist Haiti’s “re-birth” in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake. Javier Zuniga of Amnesty International called on the Haitian government to prosecute Duvalier.
Javier Zuniga: “We are asking for him to be arrested and to be put forward a trial, because during his time extrajudicial executions, disappearances and systematic torture was just the mark of his regime. The time of the Duvaliers, it was lost years for Haiti’s development, for Haiti’s human rights progress, and therefore if something — the weakness of the state in Haiti right now comes from that time, and I think he’s also responsible for that.”
Asked about the prospect of Duvalier’s arrest, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said only that judicial officials are looking into the case.
Jean-Max Bellerive: “I don’t know. That depends on the justice (judicial authorities) and we are looking at whatever was happening during — the fact that it’s a long time he was not in Haiti. And we are looking at that. We are not at ease.”
While Haiti’s former dictator has returned, the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, remains forcibly exiled. Aristide has lived in South Africa since a U.S.-backed coup in 2004. The Haitian government, under rumored U.S. pressure, has long refused to authorize his return.