Jean – Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has returned to Haiti after being in exile for almost 25 years. His return has caused many to feel concerned and uncertain about Haiti’s current political situation. There are current efforts in Haiti to elect a new president after last year’s earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. It is clear that Haiti is currently in a very fragile social and political state.
According to Human Rights watch, thousands were tortured and killed during Duvalier’s tenure as president. Michele Montas, a Haitian journalist and spokeswoman for the U.N. Secretary – General, announced that she plans to file a criminal complaint against Duvalier. Montas believes there are enough people who can testify against Duvalier.
The Duvalier family controlled Haiti for three decades beginning in 1957 when Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was elected president. During Papa Doc’s presidency he declared himself “president for life.” When he died, his son, Jean – Claude Duvalier, succeeded him. Jean – Claude controlled Haiti for fifteen years before an uprising forced him to leave the country. The younger Duvalier has been living in France since fleeing Haiti.
A Duvalier associate, Robert Sterlin, stated that Duvalier returned because, “He’s deeply hurt in his soul after the earthquake. He wanted to come back to see how is the actual Haitian situation — of the people and of the country.”
According to CNN, Duvalier still has some political supporters in Haiti. Some of these supporters gathered at the offices of the National Unity Party to hear news reports about Duvalier’s return.
Amnesty International has declared that Duvalier “should be brought to justice.” Javier Zuniga, a special advisor at Amnesty International, stated that, “The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Duvalier’s rule amount to crimes against humanity.” He also stated that, “Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes.”
Should Haiti pursue criminal charges against Duvalier? What could possibly be the effect of a past dictator returning to Haiti during this tumultuous time?