The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), in its mission to defend Haiti's poor and the inalienable rights inherent to all human beings, considers the appellate court's reiteration on February 7, 2013, of the summons to Jean-Claude Duvalier to personally appear in court another victory for his victims.
Additionally, this was the first time that the Court recognized Jean-Claude Duvalier's status as the accused, so his personnel appearance at a hearing set for February 21, 2013, will be required or he risks arrest. According to lawyer Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, one of the victim's lawyers, "the Court's order is also a victory for the victims claiming civil damages because the Court also confirmed our standing as civil claimants despite efforts from the lawyers for the accused to derail the process. Their strategy was to block Duvalier from appearing before the court to be questioned."
The lawyers note that this victory comes in the midst of a very difficult context for a fair hearing. Haiti's President, Michel Martelly, has publicly supported Mr. Duvalier and his top officials include many children of top Duvalier regime officials. The Martelly government's largest supporters, especially the United States, France and MINUSTAH, have declined to publicly recognize the Haitian government's international law obligation to pursue the crimes against humanity claims against Mr. Duvalier.
According to Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, "every human rights organization that has addressed the issue - from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the FIDH - has concluded that Duvalier's victims should get their day in court. By refusing to speak up in favor of financial accountability and against political violence, the Martelly regime's supporters are placing friendship over the long-term stability and prosperity of Haiti. It is especially disappointing that the current U.S. State Department, which boasts some of the world's top human rights lawyers and speaks out boldly for human rights elsewhere, is letting Duvalier's victims down."
* Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Mario@ijdh.org, +011 509 2943 2106/07 (in Haiti, speaks French and Kreyol)
* Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, +011 509 4730 3359 (in Haiti, speaks English and French)
* Brian Concannon Jr., Esq., Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1 541 263 0029 (in the U.S., speaks English, French and Kreyol)
Haiti court postpones Duvalier appeals hearing
Associated Press, February 08, 2013
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--A Haitian judge on Thursday postponed a court hearing on possible human rights abuse charges against Jean-Claude Duvalier because the former dictator known as "Baby Doc" failed to show up.
Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun of Haiti's Court of Appeals accepted a request by the defense team to reschedule the hearing because it fell on the 27th anniversary of Duvalier's ouster.
Defense attorney Reynold Georges said that given the anniversary, there could be trouble in the streets if the judge decided to drop the prosecution of Duvalier. Critics of the ex-dictator and his supporters staged dueling demonstrations outside.
Lebrun didn't punish Duvalier for ignoring an order to appear before the court but said Duvalier would be arrested if he didn't show up for the new hearing Feb. 21.
The hearing involves an appeal filed by people who say they were abused by Duvalier's government, which ruled from 1971 to 1986. The complainants want charges of human rights abuses reinstated against him.
A judge recommended last year that Duvalier face prosecution only for financial crimes instead of abuse charges filed against him after he returned to Haiti in 2011 following 25 years in exile.
That judge said there were no grounds to prosecute Duvalier for alleged crimes against humanity because the statute of limitations had expired under Haitian law ? an argument the defense has made. The defense has appealed the judge's recommendation to prosecute Duvalier for alleged financial crimes.
Human rights groups in Haiti and abroad argue there are international rulings that show crimes against humanity are exempt from a statute of limitations, and they say there is ample evidence of abuse to prosecute Duvalier.
The 61-year-old Duvalier would face no more than five years in prison if convicted of the financial crimes, which include embezzlement of public funds.
Duvalier has remained free during the court proceedings. The court placed him under house arrest but he has traveled the country without consequence. The Haitian government in December renewed Duvalier's diplomatic passport as is customary for former presidents, his attorney said.