Lawyers Denounce Shortcomings in Conduct of Duvalier Prosecution

Mario Joseph and Brian Con­can­non Jr., Esq
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI) and the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) con­tinue to express their out­rage at the cav­a­lier man­ner in which the pros­e­cu­tion of for­mer dic­ta­tor Jean-Claude Duva­lier is being con­ducted, and their con­cern over the inves­ti­gat­ing judge’s appar­ent lack of inter­est to pur­sue this case in accor­dance with the law. This pros­e­cu­tion presents a his­toric oppor­tu­nity to end the impunity that has torn the social fab­ric of Haiti for many decades and has pre­vented the estab­lish­ment of a demo­c­ra­tic con­sti­tu­tional state.

The day after charges were filed against the for­mer dic­ta­tor, the judge charged with inves­ti­gat­ing the case paid a cour­tesy visit to Mr. Duva­lier in the hotel where he was stay­ing, in vio­la­tion of Arti­cle 49 of the Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure. The judge also failed to fol­low proper pro­ce­dure when he issued a pre­lim­i­nary indict­ment against the defen­dant with­out first hav­ing ques­tioned him, con­sti­tut­ing a vio­la­tion of Hait­ian law.

The judge’s bla­tant dis­re­gard of the Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure, despite his knowl­edge of the law, demon­strates an appar­ent bias in favor of the accused and serves as a slap in the face of the vic­tims who have come forth to seek jus­tice through the law. More­over, by issu­ing a pre­lim­i­nary indict­ment fraught with these pro­ce­dural errors, the judge is effec­tively giv­ing the defense the abil­ity to over­turn the indict­ment on appeal based on tech­ni­cal­i­ties. This seri­ously calls into ques­tion the judge’s com­mit­ment to see jus­tice served in this case. We demand that the judge imme­di­ately recuse him­self from the case to pre­vent the entire process from being irrepara­bly tainted.

The integrity of the process has been fur­ther under­mined by Jean-Claude Duvalier’s fail­ure to appear in court. Each time he is called in for ques­tion­ing, Mr. Duva­lier falls ill and vis­its the hos­pi­tal. Despite the sus­pi­cious tim­ing of Mr. Duvalier’s hos­pi­tal vis­its, the judge does not call him back to court once he is released from the hospital.

Mean­while, Mr. Duva­lier rou­tinely defies an order plac­ing him under house arrest and trav­els the coun­try as if he were a can­di­date in an elec­toral cam­paign, adding insult to injury to the count­less vic­tims who suf­fered human rights abuses under his regime. Mr. Duvalier’s free move­ment around the coun­try sug­gests that the Hait­ian jus­tice sys­tem is not yet will­ing to break with Haïti’s his­tory of impunity.

The BAI and IJDH ask all to mobi­lize and to remain vig­i­lant until jus­tice is served and impunity is ended. This will be achieved when Duva­lier is prop­erly tried and con­victed. There­fore, we call on vic­tims of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s bru­tal regime to con­tinue to come for­ward and file com­plaints against him and all com­plainants to imme­di­ately seek the removal of the judge from this case.

The BAI and IJDH ask the vic­tims and sup­port­ers of the rule of law to mul­ti­ply their efforts to stand up against impunity in Haiti. We remind every­one that jus­tice for crimes com­mit­ted by dic­ta­tors and their agents will require per­sis­tent efforts. In Latin Amer­ica, dic­ta­tors’ crimes have com­monly been jus­ti­fied by the adop­tion of emer­gency laws by their gov­ern­ments. But the per­se­ver­ance, courage and audac­ity of the peo­ple of those coun­tries have allowed them to over­come bar­ri­ers to jus­tice. We must arm our­selves with these attrib­utes so that we may fin­ish the cru­sade against impunity in the Amer­i­cas and bring this last dic­ta­tor to justice.