Haiti: UN human rights chief offers help to address crimes under Duvalier

Map of Haiti and Dominican Republic

1 February 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief has offered Haitian authorities technical assistance for prosecuting crimes committed during the 15-year rule of former president Jean-Claude Duvalier, who returned to the country last month from exile.

There are major issues concerning human rights abuses that took place in Haiti from 1971 to 1986 when Mr. Duvalier was in power, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Stressing that serious human rights violations should not go unpunished, High Commissioner Navi Pillay stated in a news release issued today that there was no statute of limitations under international law for violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and rape.

“Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious human rights violations that occurred during the rule of Mr. Duvalier, and to prosecute those responsible for them,” she said.

“Such systematic violations of rights cannot remain unaddressed. The thousands of Haitians who suffered under this regime deserve justice,” she added.

“I call on the Haitian authorities to send a message to the world that their national courts can ensure accountability for serious violations of human rights, even in difficult humanitarian and political contexts.”

Mr. Duvalier, who returned to Haiti on 16 January after 25 years in exile, was reportedly questioned and released by the Haitian authorities just days after his arrival in the country, after being charged with corruption, misappropriation of funds and illicit association.

Noting the pending legal proceedings against the former leader, the independent UN expert on human rights in Haiti earlier this month urged the international community to “allow justice to take its course” in the Caribbean nation. “At a time when the international community strengthens its support for the restoration of the rule of law in Haiti, unwavering support to the fight against impunity for serious crimes would be a good signal to send to the people of Haiti and particularly to victims and victims’ families,” said Michel Forst.


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