Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rights groups blast Haiti judge on Duvalier case

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Human rights groups criticized a Haitian judge Monday after he recommended former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier face trial only on corruption charges — and not for rights abuses during his brutal 15-year rule.

The organizations, both Haitian and foreign, said Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean ignored crucial testimony that would have given weight to a prosecution of the once-feared ruler known as "Baby Doc" for crimes that include torture, false imprisonment and murder.

Jean decided that Duvalier should go before a special court that handles relatively minor crimes. Duvalier, the former "president for life" who has been free to roam about the capital since his surprise return from exile last year, would face no more than five years in prison if convicted in that court.

Jean said the statute of limitations has run out on any human rights crimes committed during Duvalier's 1971-86 regime but not on accusations of misappropriation of public funds.

The judge's decision, based on a yearlong investigation, must first be reviewed by the attorney general as well as by Duvalier and the victims of his regime who filed complaints against the former leader, Jean said.

Duvalier's lawyer, Reynold Georges, had argued that all charges should be dismissed, and he said he would appeal Jean's finding as soon as he received the paperwork.

"We're going to appeal that decision … and throw it in the garbage can," Georges said.

Human Rights Watch, which has helped push for a trial, also called for an appeal — to overturn the judge's decision against a trial on abuse charges.

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