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'Baby Doc' Duvalier in court on corruption charges

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Former Haitian Dictator Jean Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier was in court on corruption charges this week. It was the first time since the revolt that overthrew him in 1986 that Duvalier was held to answer for the various abuses surrounding his regime. Denying responsibility for the injustices the Haitian people suffered under his 15-year rule, the 61-year-old Duvalier, when asked about his role as head of state from 1971 to 1986, declared that "Under my authority, children could go to school, there was no insecurity."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Duvalier had boycotted three previous court hearings. He maintained a defiant tone during a four-hour grilling by a panel of three judges.

After his last no-show a week ago, Judge Jean-Joseph Lebrun issued a warrant ordering his presence, under police escort if necessary.

Duvalier slipped into the courthouse without escort early on Thursday, arriving long before the hearing started, accompanied by his longtime companion Veronique Roy.

Hundreds of Duvalier supporters gathered outside the courthouse soon after his arrival, some dancing and chanting "Long live Duvalier."

The pretrial Appeal Court hearing was held to determine what charges Duvalier faces. It is the first time he has personally been required to address crimes allegedly committed during his rule.

"Whatever happens next, Haitians will remember the image of their former dictator having to answer questions about the repression carried out under his rule," Reed Brody, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch says. International human rights observers are keenly watching the proceedings. For some, it is a test of Haiti's justice system after decades of dictatorship, military rule and economic mayhem.

Duvalier was asked by the judges about more than a dozen of the most notorious cases involving alleged extra-judicial killings and detention of political prisoners.

"He was asked tough questions and his answers were mostly evasive," Amanda Klasing, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who attended the hearing said. "He was very calm, almost indifferent. His facial expression didn't change at all," she said.

Those who had suffered under Baby Doc's regime were present to begin to taste the fruits of justice. "He will have to face history in court, just like other dictators around the world are facing," Alix Fils-Aime, who was imprisoned by Duvalier's government said.

The hearing was adjourned in the afternoon and is set to resume next week.

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