By TRENTON DANIEL, Associated Press – 11 hours ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The creation of a truth commission would help promote reconciliation for Haitian victims who suffered during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, a U.N. human rights official said Tuesday.
The U.N.’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, said at a press conference that the panel wouldn’t replace ongoing efforts to prosecute Duvalier, a former despot known as “Baby Doc,” but would work alongside them.
More than 20 lawsuits have been filed in a Haitian court against Duvalier for crimes ranging from attempted murder and torture to embezzlement since he made an unexpected return to his homeland in January after 25 years in exile.
“We do not think that this (Duvalier) case and a truth commission are necessarily exclusive,” Kang told The Associated Press. “We do believe that there is a need for a broader coming to terms with the past. And a truth commission would serve that broader purpose whereas the Duvalier case would focus specifically on the accountability of the leader of what was a very brutal period.”
Upon his return, criminal charges were brought against Duvalier and a judge placed him under house arrest though he’s been seen dining with friends at high-end restaurants in the hills above Port-au-Prince.
The case has moved at a sluggish pace. Duvalier has answered questions before an investigating judge twice since May.
Advocacy groups say the case could break important new legal ground in Haiti, where the judiciary like other institutions is historically weak and ineffective.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in January that he offered to assist in the prosecution, saying the alleged crimes have no statute of limitations.
Defense attorney Reynold Georges said the statute of limitations had expired and that he opposed the creation of a truth commission.
“I totally disapprove,” Georges said by telephone. “We have our own legal system, and we’re going to stick to it. … Love (Duvalier) or leave the country.”
So far in her four-day visit, Kang said she met with Martelly, Haitian lawmakers, diplomats and rights advocates. She said she also met with a group of plaintiffs on the Duvalier case.
The topic of the Duvalier case did not come up in her meeting with the president, she said.
Before he was sworn in on May 14, Martelly told a Montreal French-language newspaper that he was open to the idea of considering amnesty for Duvalier, citing a need for national reconciliation. Martelly has aligned himself with Duvalier allies, including Daniel Supplice, a minister of social affairs under Duvalier who now runs Martelly’s transition team.
Bobby Duval, a former soccer star who’s among the plaintiffs, said he welcomed the idea of a truth commission, along with prosecution. .