Port-au-Prince - Two years after his return to Haiti
following 25 years in exile, ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier is due in court on
Thursday as a judge mulls whether he can be tried for crimes against humanity.
Known as "Baby Doc", Duvalier was the world's
youngest head of state when, at the age of just 19, he succeeded his late
autocratic father Francois "Papa Doc" in 1971.
His rule was initially seen as more benign, before he too
adopted hard-line dictatorial measures.
He was eventually overthrown in 1986 and spent a quarter
of a century in exile in France.
Since his return a year after the 2010 earthquake that
devastated the Port-au-Prince region and left more than a quarter of a million
dead, several Haitian individuals and groups have attempted to bring charges
Former opposition figures have accused him of deploying
the feared Tonton Macoute militia and of complicity in murder, torture and
But, to the disgust of human rights organisations, a
Haiti court decided last year that too much time had passed for him to be
charged with crimes against humanity, which are protected by a statute of
On Thursday, a Haitian judge is expected to hear an
appeal against that decision, although Duvalier's lawyer Fritzo Canton told AFP
that the defence had lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court and therefore the
other court was taken off the case.
Amnesty International has sent an observer to Thursday's
hearing. The appeal being considered was brought by victims of human rights
Duvalier had initially been supposed to appear in court
on 7 February, but failed to show up and instead sent a letter accusing the
judge of taking the plaintiff's side and asking for the hearing to be
The anniversary when Duvalier was overthrown in 1986 was
7 February, and Canton argued it had been "unwise" for the judge to
summon him to appear on "a date so charged with resentment and emotion”.
On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights reminded Haiti of its duty to probe, prosecute and punish human rights
"The IACHR reiterates that Haiti, as a state party
to the American Convention on Human Rights, has an international obligation to
investigate and if necessary punish those responsible for the gross human
rights violations committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier," it
said in a statement.