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Jean-Claude Duvalier's death :  We should all draw clear lessons from this somber chapter of history

″As I learn of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s death on this October 4th, I can only regret that justice was unable to complete its course and that he never had to answer the charges of systematic corruption and serious crimes committed under his regime. I am still convinced that real national reconciliation and concord could only have come through a duty of truth. On this day, my thoughts are first with the victims of so much brutality and with Haiti, as a whole, which suffered years of sorrow and grave affronts to human rights, liberties and democracy. We should all draw clear lessons from this somber chapter of history.ʺ

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

Former Haitian dictator dies before facing trial

Death of Jean-Claude Duvalier will not stop the ongoing struggle against impunity in Haiti

Québec City, October 4, 2014 – The death of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier does not put an end to the prosecution of those most responsible for serious human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime. More than ever, the right to justice and reparation of the victims of these crimes must be respected and implemented, declares 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.

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

Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Pascal Paradis, Executive Director of LWBC, remarked that “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. We stand in solidarity with the Collectif contre l’impunité and the plaintiffs in our determination to continue the struggle against impunity”.

LWBC highlights the fact that the 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.

Even if his death brings an end to legal action against Jean-Claude Duvalier, it does not affect proceedings against his associates, and Haitian authorities are obliged to make every effort to ensure that the rights of victims to obtain justice and redress are fully respected. A recent landmark decision by the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeal stated that the inquiry should target all those indicted.

Mr. Paradis notes that “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” The international community similarly has an obligation to ensure Haiti respects its international commitments to end impunity for those responsible for gross violations of human rights under international law.

Nor does the death of the former dictator mark the end of efforts to reconstitute the collective memory of events under the Duvalier regime. “These efforts to establish collective memory are fundamental for Haitians” emphasizes Danièle Magloire, coordinator of the Collectif contre l’impunité, civil party to the proceedings against the main perpetrators of the Duvalier regime. "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.”

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For More information: Edouard Delaplace (418) 717-7155


It's a shame Jean-Claude Duvalier died a free man, says ex-UN prosecutor

Former UN prosecutor Payam Akhavan tried to put Duvalier on trial for crimes against humanity

The news of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's death is being met with mixed feelings by the international community.

Payam Akhavan isn't mincing words, though.

The former United Nations prosecutor and current law professor at McGill University was hired by the government of former Haitian president René Préval to prosecute "Baby Doc" Duvalier for human rights violations.

However, he was unable to prosecute Duvalier before the former dictator's death on Oct. 4. 

"Those who were the victims of his reign of mass terror are still living in Haiti and the scars of those crimes still affect Haitian society, not just in terms of those who were victims of the torture chambers and political murders, but also the problems that we have in Haiti with lack of accountability, with corruption," Akhavan told CBC News on Saturday.

Payam Akhavan, a law professor at McGill University and former UN prosecutor who helped the former Haitian government build a case against Duvalier. (McGill University)

"If Jean-Claude Duvalier is not prosecuted for crimes against humanity, what message does that send about impunity or gross abuses of power? I’m afraid the international community has failed the Haitian people and Jean-Claude Duvalier died a free man."

Haitian journalist Nancy Roc, who now lives in Montreal, said she immediately thought of Duvalier's victims when she first learned of his death.

"My first thoughts are to the victims because he died and the victims will never get their justice, and I don't think that's fair," Roc said.

Canada failed to hold Duvalier accountable

Akhavan said Duvalier — who inherited the leadership of Haiti from his father, "Papa Doc" Duvalier in 1971 and ran the country until he was overthrown in 1986 — ran a notoriously brutal regime. 

Haitian-Montrealer and journalist Nancy Roc says she doesn't think the world will be worse off without Duvalier. (CBC)

He said thousands of Haitians, including politicians, journalists and other engaged citizens, either disappeared, were murdered or were forced through torture chambers during Duvalier's 15 years as president of Haiti.

Akhavan accused Canada and other Western nations of not doing more to stop Duvalier during his presidency, or hold him accountable later. 

Part of the reason, he said, was that Duvalier was a key player against Communism during the Cold War, and that he was left largely alone to do as he pleased by Western governments so long as he continued to fight Communism.

Duvalier was exiled from Haiti in 1986 and settled in France with his family.

He returned unexpectedly to Haiti in 2011 and was quickly arrested and charged with corruption and committing human rights abuses, to which he ultimately pleaded not guilty.

He was free while under indictment when he died from a heart attack in his Port-au-Prince home on Saturday. 

"It's been three years. He's been in restaurants, he's been everywhere, just enjoying his life without being judged," journalist Roc said.

"I don't think that the world is going to be worse without him, that's for sure," she continued.

Of all the Haitian immigrants in Canada, over 90 per cent of them live in Quebec.

Source : CBC NEWS