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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 7:46 pm

Advocacy groups urge Haiti to pursue Duvalier case

The Associated Press

International advocacy groups urged Haitian authorities on Wednesday not to drop a rights abuse case against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Amnesty International and the Open Society Justice Initiative said in separate statements that it is imperative for the former ruler known as "Baby Doc" to be prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed while he was in office.

Duvalier abruptly returned to his native Haiti in 2011 following 25 years in exile in France.

Authorities opened an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses and other crimes associated with his 15-year rule, but a judge recommended a year ago that Duvalier instead be indicted only on charges of embezzling public funds.

The 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 made by his defense team.

The 61-year-old Duvalier would face no more than five years in prison if convicted of financial crimes.

Victims of the purported rights abuses appealed the judge's decision, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Port-au-Prince.

Duvalier has been ordered to appear in person for the hearing, which falls on the 27th anniversary of his departure from Haiti amid a popular uprising.