Former Haitian leader’s return raises impunity issues, UN human rights office says

Map of Haiti and Dominican Republic

18 January 2011 – The return to Haiti of former Haitian leader Jean Claude Duvalier clearly raises issues of impunity and accountability, the United Nations human rights office said today, adding that it was looking into the matter.

There are major issues surrounding Mr. Duvalier and the considerable range of human rights abuses that took place in Haiti during the 15 years that he was in power, the spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told a news briefing in Geneva.

There are also other issues like corruption, Mr. Colville added, noting that it was not clear if Haiti was in a position to arrest and charge Mr. Duvalier.

Human rights groups have long called for Mr. Duvalier to be arrested in relation to human rights abuses carried out during his rule. The former president of Haiti made a surprise return to Haiti on Sunday, after 25 years of exile in France and amidst a political crisis in his country.

Asked about Mr. Duvalier’s return, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told journalists today that it came as a total surprise to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as was the case for many people.

Mr. Nesirky added that it was a source of concern to see him resurfacing in the landscape, especially now, at a critical time for the stability of the country, as all energies are focused on looking for a settlement of the current electoral crisis.

Beyond the January 2010 earthquake that killed 220,000 people and made 1.5 million others homeless and a cholera epidemic which erupted in October and has already infected almost 200,000 people, killing over 3,700, Haiti is embroiled in turmoil following the first round of elections in November.

In December thousands of protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, accusing the ruling government coalition of rigging the results, after provisional tallies put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the candidate of outgoing President Rene Préval’s party, Jude Celestin, in first and second place, thus qualifying for a run-off scheduled for this month.

Popular musician Michel Martelly was less than one percentage point behind in third place, but thus excluded from the run-off. The Organization of American States has reviewed the count and sent a report to Mr. Préval.

MINUSTAH, currently with nearly 12,000 military and police personnel, has been on the ground since mid-2004 after thee then-president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went into exile amid violent unrest.


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