Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity
February 22, 2014
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A Haitian appellate court has ruled that deposed dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier (also known as “Baby Doc”) could be charged with crimes against humanity, and for crimes committed by the army and paramilitary during his reign. This reverses the 2012 ruling that stated Duvalier could not be charged for his alleged involvement for these crimes due to the statute of limitations running out.
The appellate court has made their ruling based on standards of international law over Haitian law. Human rights lawyer, Pierre Esperance, stated “Haiti is not isolated and international right applies in the country. So crimes against humanity are part of our law,” human rights rights lawyer. Since the 2012 ruling, the UN high commissioner for human rights, along with other human rights advocates, have asserted that there is no statute of limitations for human rights violations under international law.
Duvalier has consistently denied these accusations, and even fled into exile for 25 years. Upon his return to Haiti in 2011, however, he issued an apology to victims of his government. This, along with Haiti’s truth commission being largely unsuccessful (as mentioned in the Méndez reading), provide evidence that peace (or lack of violence) has been insufficient in promoting reconciliation. Rather, justice (through the acknowledgement of Duvalier’s dictatorship and investigation of his crimes) has provided a greater sense of reconciliation, especially for victims who have been in search of answers and justice.
Is this case also an example of how international law can becoming an overarching factor in determining domestic conflicts? Defense attorney, Fritzo Canton, has made claims that the judges are under the influence of “extreme left-wing” international human rights groups. On the other hand, while the influence of international law has reopened investigations of Duvalier’s crimes, the trials and investigations are being done by Haitian courts. It does not seem like the influence of groups promoting international standards are overstepping their bounds, especially considering the fact that their influence has primarily been in defense of victims who are demanding justice.
Source: Chicago Tribune