Jean-Claude Duvalier

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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facts

Jean-Claude Duvalier was born on 3 July 1951, in port-au-Prince, Haiti. Between 1971 and 1986 he was the 41th President of the Haitian Republic.

When he was 19, after the death of his father Francois Duvalier, he took the power, thus becoming the youngest head of state of the world. He declared himself president for life.

His presidency was marked by a dictatorship characterized by repeated violations of human rights, supported by a militia known as “Tonton Macoutes.” Like the regime of his father, his 15 years as head of Haiti have been filled with massive arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of political opponents, enforced disappearances, summary executions, etc… Many political prisoners were victims of torture.

Some historians believe that successive regimes of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier caused, reportedly, more than 60,000 victims.

On 7 February 1986, an insurgency ended the Duvalier regime. He was then forced into exile in France. He fled on board of an U.S. Air Force aircraft to land at Grenoble in France, taking with him hundreds of millions of dollars. The same day, hundreds of Tonton Macoutes were massacred by an angry population.

After 25 years in exile, on 16 January 2011 Jean-Claude Duvalier decided to go back to Haiti. Two days after his arrival he was indicted first for corruption, embezzlement of public funds and criminal conspiracy, and then for crimes against humanity.

legal procedure

After 25 years in exile, on 16 January 2011 Jean-Claude Duvalier decided to go back to Haiti. Two days after his arrival he was indicted first for corruption, embezzlement of public funds and criminal conspiracy, and then for crimes against humanity.

These prosecutions have allowed to continue a criminal investigation opened against him in 2008 for the same crimes.

According to the victims’ families, Jean-Claude Duvalier would be responsible for “murder, kidnapping, illegal detention and torture” committed during his presidency.

He has been forbidden to leave Haitian territory and placed under house arrest.

According to Duvalier’s lawyers, the charge for crimes against humanity is statute-barred, pursuant to Article 466 of the 1988 Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure. In addition, Duvalier would benefit from immunity.

Many international lawyers, organizations and bodies (including the American Commission on Human Rights) argued that, under the rules of international law binding on Haiti, there can be no statute of limitations or amnesty for the crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Duvalier.

However, and to everyone’s surprise, on 30 January 2012 the the judge in charge of the case decided to drop the allegations of crimes against humanity, retaining only the charge of embezzlement.

The victims have decided to appeal this decision and appear, if necessary, in front of the Court of Cassation and subsequently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

On 20 February 2014, the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince decided that crimes imputable to Duvalier were imprescriptible as crimes against humanity. It therefore rejected an order given by the prosecutor Carves Jean two years ago and investigations have been reopened. The Court decided that Duvalier could be held responsible for the crimes committed by the army and by the “Tontons Macoutes” when he was president. The Court therefore asked an investigating judge to collect further information from complainants and to interrogate former officials of the regime, in order to establish, at the end of the investigation, whether Duvalier should be prosecuted or not.

On 11 March 2014, Duvalier’s lawyers announced that they lodged an appeal in front of the Supreme Court.

On 4 October 2014, Duvalier, 63, died of a heart attack in his native town of Port-au-Prince.